The skills system in the UK is an example of chronic policy failure. For decades, the fragmented array of institutions, funding arrangements, incentives and accountability mechanisms have not provided learners with the skills they need to access highly paid jobs, or businesses with the workers they need to grow. Launching the major review of post-18 education in February, Theresa May lamented the “wasted human potential” this has caused.
In the policy community, ‘skills’ is a term that quickly narrows to institutional structures, qualifications and funding mechanisms. But underneath our managerial understanding of these systems and processes are broader ideas and identities, including class, culture and sense of self-agency, that are intrinsically bound to the efficacy of programmes and policies. These intangible issues cut across policy agendas and local, sub-regional and national bureaucratic boundaries.
We argue that skills are a key driver of inclusive growth. For the skills system to function properly, however, we must improve its interaction with key groups within society and tackle the pervasive information gaps currently preventing optimal outcomes.