Helping Raise the Official Statistics Capability of Government Employees

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Both the production and the use of official statistics are important in the business of government. In New Zealand, concern persists about many government advisors’ low level of statistical capability. One programme designed specifically to enhance capability is New Zealand’s National Certificate of Official Statistics, first introduced in 2007 and originally targeted at government policy analysts and advisors. It now includes participants from many agencies, including the National Statistics Office. The competency-based 40-credit certificate comprises four taught units that aim to give students skills in basic official statistics and in critically evaluating statistical, research, policy, or media publications for their quality (of data, survey design, analysis, and conclusions) and appropriateness for some policy issue (e.g., how to reduce problem gambling), together with an ‘umbrella’ workplace-based statistics project. Case studies are used to embed the statistics learning into the real-world context of these students. Several surveys of students and their managers were undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of the certificate in terms of enhancing skill levels and meeting organisational needs and also to examine barriers to completion of the certificate. The results were used to both modify the programme and extend its international applicability.

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