Workforce Development goes centre stage

Workforce Development will be one of the first major initiatives of a Labour Government if re-elected in the next Parliament. The Government’s main economic objective in its first term has been to secure a stable level of growth and rising employment. But it was already half way into the Parliament before it identified that low productivity was the main structural factor that has inhibited greater prosperity.

Productivity in the USA is 45% higher than in Britain, 19% higher in France, and 7% in Germany. The Government has identified poor skills as one of the main causes for low UK productivity but so far their approach to this problem has been incremental:

By the Summer of this year, the Government should start to devise a new policy based on the results of at least three investigations; a joint CBI and TUC enquiry into intermediate and technical skills; the Learning and Skills Council's Workforce Development plan; and the recommendations of a substantial initiative from the Cabinet Office's Policy Innovation Unit.

What are they likely to conclude? If sufficiently bold, they should should propose changes that genuinely engage employers and learners, and cut across inhibiting departmental boundaries in Government:

There is a consensus emerging that fifteen years of pure voluntarism on the part of employers has led to low investment and to poaching rather than training staff. Whilst many assumptions about the balance of responsibilities between Government and the private sector need to be changed, a cultural adjustment is also required on the part of individuals. Much of the USA's dramatic lead in productivity is attributable to the high levels of personal investment in education and training. For over a century, in Britain, we have assumed it is someone else's responsibility. Wrong. From now on, it is a joint endeavour.