As an LBS Professor of Practice, Mark Cloney brings a wealth of management and government experience to La Trobe Business School. With over twenty years of experience in the public sector and ten in the private sector, Mark Cloney has insights into economics, business and public policy practice that will undoubtedly be invaluable to students.

“I worked in the Commonwealth government for over twenty years.” Mark comments. “First I was in the department of Transport and Regional Development for thirteen years as a Director of Regional Development Policy, and afterwards I was in Senior Executive Service in the Department Agriculture, as the Assistant Secretary of Business Assurance and Risk.”

When asked about the skillset needed to enter the Public Sector, Mark is clear: “For a career in the public sector, people need common sense, a hands-on attitude, analytical skills, and a strong understanding of how government works and to be flexible and adaptable – because things change!. It is also crucial to understand how policy decisions will affect the broader community, and not just the intended target groups of a particular policy.”

A practical attitude is something that Mark is keen to pass on to his students through his teaching. As an assignment, Mark instructs his students to write a two-page brief to the minister after going through a case study about a specific decision or problem. In the assignment, students are asked to give a minister on overview of the options available in a short brief, to help the minister to make an informed decision. To this end, students must provide a brief history on the problem, the context, explain why it’s a problem, as well as policy options for consideration. Mark says. “Ministers usually don’t have a lot of time on their hands, so they need all the key information required, as quickly and succinctly as possible. They can always follow-up if they want more”.

During this process, policy officers must remain politically neutral, and look into solutions from a range of quite often competing perspectives. “In the position of a policy officer, you will have stakeholders coming at you from all sides,” Mark comments. “Often it is your job to find policy options that works for a variety of stakeholders. It is the Minister’s role to choose the options that best suits the political agenda and priorities of the government.”

When asked how being a policy officers differs from his current position, Mark says he is enjoying the change of environment; “As an academic, you can be a lot more independent in your research and teaching away from the daily cut and thrust of politics that senior bureaucrats have to deal with. When you work in policy in government, you’ll quickly discover that there is no silver bullet, or ‘right’ economic or policy theory for a lot of social, environmental or political problems.  Many of the major of problems of today are ‘wicked’ in nature i.e. climate change, pollution, or indigenous disadvantage etc. and not easily resolvable.  And, as government’s and ministers change so do their priorities and political agendas and consequently their appetite to address some problems and not others.”

So, how do you solve big problems as a policy officer? “You apply as many different lenses (tools, frameworks and approaches) to look at problems and take into account different stakeholder views,” Mark reckons. “When dealing with a problem on a large scale, you will need a range of solutions to address different symptoms caused by the problem and you need to work across jurisdictions and government agencies. No one agency or level of government has the answer or capacity to address the wicked problems. As a Policy Advisor, you will need to be able to think out of the box and apply innovation to your thinking. This is why broad based course such as political economy and economics are very useful for students try to understand global issues and public policy approaches.”

When it comes to forming students who are ready for the work-force, Mark Cloney is positive. He is encouraging when it comes to industry placements. As a Professor of Practice, Mark has been a strong advocate for pushing industry partnerships, collaboration, and blended learning. “A lot of the tools students need today come down to having a broader skillset rather than narrow knowledge gained from a particular discipline or course.  It is about how they use the knowledge obtained through their degree to collaborate, problem solve and innovate more broadly. This is what is demanded in a knowledge based global economy”.

Mark says, “Universities are great places to explore your interests, and try out new things. Students should take advantage of that but always with an eye to future employment.”