Government should implement better long-term skills policies, experts warn

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The UK’s skills system has been severely affected by constant changes in the policies of successive administrations on skills and employment, a major new report published yesterday by the City & Guilds Group has warned.

The paper, titled ‘Sense & Instability: three decades of skills and employment policy’, pointed out that there have been 61 Secretaries of State responsible for skills and employment policy in the last three decades (compared with 18 for schools policy and 16 for higher education) who, between them, produced 13 major Acts of Parliament.

Additionally, the policy area has moved between departments or been shared with multiple departments no fewer than 10 times since the 1980s. Plus, sustained disruption in the system, from machinery of Government change and Ministerial reshuffles, to low level policy ‘tinkering’ and wholesale system-wide change, has consistently and often negatively impacted implementation in key areas.

The report by City & Guilds also now challenges all parties to address the report’s main recommendations, including here better long-term planning for skills policy that is linked to long-term economic forecasts, a greater level of coherence between central government policymaking and local implementation, as well as greater scrutiny of changes to skills policy to deliver better taxpayer value for money.

The paper also calls for better checks and balances to remove the risk of politics influencing policy decisions.

Chairman of City & Guilds, Sir John Armitt, said: “They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It would be madness to ignore the evidence of three decades of skills and employment policy – yet our politicians have failed to learn from the past. This report is a wake-up call to all policymakers. I urge all parties – irrespective of political colours or ideology – to look and learn.”

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