Principles of Public Service: To Serve & Protect

Course Overview

Units at a glance

This unit defines and explores public service. This field includes a wide variety of professions that have in common working for the public good. Everyone in public service, from first responders in emergencies to the individual that mows the lawn at city hall, has a role in keeping society functioning well. Much public service work happens through government agencies that set and enforce the rules and regulations required to keep societies safe. However, public service work is also about considering the future. This requires finding solutions for current problems and anticipating what challenges lie ahead. It also means having a clear vision of where an agency hopes to be in the upcoming decades and how to get there. When these visions are combined with a clear structure, the daily business of public service occurs. Part of these everyday operations includes making decisions that will impact the future, so they need to be made wisely.

This unit explores the elements of a thriving community—the goal of all of those in public service. Economic health is an important part of creating a place that attracts new industries and talented workers. Although those in public service use much the same tools for managing money as those in private businesses or individual households do, they have the important job of keeping clear financial records. Because those in public service must be held accountable for the funds that they control, their records are regularly reviewed and kept according to the standards for government accounting. Although there are specific standards for government, the principles of developing a good budget apply to individuals as well.

This unit explores the elements of an effective workforce. Because the public sector depends on recruiting and maintaining excellent employees, human resources has a variety of tools for identifying them and keeping their skills up-to-date. Employees have the responsibility to present themselves professionally and do their part to create a positive work environment. In the public sector, management is responsible for making sure that work gets done. However, employees can do their part by having excellent communication and professional skills. Although the public and private sectors have slightly different goals and expectations, the qualities of a good employee apply in both.

This unit explores the elements of effective leadership. Working in public service often means handling the unexpected, so employees need to be ready to give members of the public the guidance that they need to resolve their issues. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to build leadership skills, including working with a mentor. Developing strong communication skills is another. This includes using electronic communication effectively. Public service organizations depend on a range of programs and technologies to run smoothly, so acquiring basic computer skills is part of the preparation for a public service career.

Regulations are used to check the conduct of both the government and the individuals who help society. One of the most important regulations is the Freedom of Information Act, which provides individuals access to public records. Although the government regulates many aspects of society, it’s important to remember that society is ultimately responsible for monitoring the government. There are some limitations to what government can be forced to reveal, but this act is designed to keep government processes transparent. Public agencies also often have a lot of personal information at their disposal, so part of working in public service is keeping these records safe and secure. Regulations also protect the environment. Without them—and the public service employees who create and enforce them—there would be little protection for natural resources. Fortunately, there are many careers in public service for those who want to monitor and manage these resources.

Having ethics, or morals, is an important part of working in public service. Because so much trust is placed in public agencies, it’s particularly damaging to their reputation when employees make poor ethical choices. One area where public service workers need to be particularly mindful of potential ethical issues is the awarding of public service contracts. Because agencies often need to bring in outside expertise, they need fair and transparent bidding processes to determine who gets the work. Giving public service contracts to private business can be a win–win for both the agency and the private business.

Communication is an important part of public service. This is true when dealing with members of the public one on one or when trying to get information out to an entire community. Having some basic customer service skills can make both kinds of communication easier. When communicating about public health, it is particularly important to get the message right. Because the public needs to know when new diseases emerge or public health threats are on the horizon, many of those in public service will be responsible for getting these messages across. Both as public service employees and as members of the public, those working in public service need to be mindful of health and safety regulations to do their job of protecting society. Being able to handle basic emergencies or give first aid when needed can help public service workers handle most emergencies.

Public service requires thinking about the future, and education is an important part of ensuring that society will thrive. Dedicated teachers and administrators do all they can to make sure that young people have the skills that they need to enter the workforce. For those who love working with youth, a variety of careers in education is available. Whereas educators look out for students’ intellectual development, social workers do their best to make sure that every child grows up safe and healthy. By connecting those in need with social services, social workers provide a safety net for individuals and families struggling to maintain an acceptable standard of living. They can help them deal with addiction or get out of an abusive situation. By looking out for everybody, social workers also play an important role in building a society that takes care of all.

Many of those in public service will spend their days keeping the public safe. This is particularly true of those who are first on the scene when emergencies occur. Public service workers not only provide emergency medical care but also respond to local and national disasters. Whether it’s a brutal storm or a terrorist attack, public service workers have a plan to handle the situation. Police and medical workers are often on the front lines of these emergencies, and there are several career options in both of these fields. Protecting society from crime does not end with police officers; they depend upon an entire justice system to make sure that those accused of wrongdoing have a fair process. Those who dedicate their careers to public safety ensure that society runs smoothly.

Firefighters do more than save lives; they also protect land and property. They represent just one of the many careers available in fire safety. People in these careers share a desire to keep the public safe. Civil engineering is also an important part of public service. Without professionals like city planners working to make cities efficient, it would be difficult for cities to expand and grow. Transportation is another important category in public service. Without public service workers imagining bustling cities and considering how to best accommodate the movement of residents, getting around the neighborhood and the nation would be tough. As in all aspects of public service, a lot of planning is involved in transportation and the rules and regulations to keep it safe.

Course Highlights

Learn what public service is and how it effects your life.
Research careers in different areas of public service.
Sharpen your leadership and decision-making skills.
Create an emergency response plan.

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