City and Guilds calls for new quango to oversee skills policy

The City and Guilds Group has called for the creation of a new independent body to oversee skills policy in the UK to put a stop to decisions being made in “short-term political cycles” by ministers.

In its ‘Sense & Instability 2019’ report, the education giant warned that government policy is being created “without any clear success measures”, any “identified business case” nor “understanding of its intended value for money”.

Because of this, City and Guilds said it is “impossible to tell if the millions going into new initiatives like T-levels, the National Retraining Scheme or apprenticeship standards is set to make a difference or just go to waste”.

Its report claimed that skills and education policy has become “short-term in outlook, disjointed and inconsistent”, partly due to the fact that 70 different ministers have held responsibility for skills policy in the last three and half decades, compared to 20 for schools policy and 21 for higher education in the same period.

It argued that “important lessons from the implementation of skills policy over several decades have not been learned”, such as the doomed Train to Gain initiative, meaning “badly-needed” training and education programmes are “not fit for purpose or delivering the right results”.

City and Guilds believes a Skills Policy Institute needs to be developed to fix this.

According to its report, the new institute would assist in gathering evidence to feed into revisions of policy delivery and provide a research base.

Chris Jones (pictured), chief executive at City and Guilds, said: “We’re navigating a period of unprecedented uncertainty and change, which makes effective skills policy more vital than ever. Unfortunately, our research shows that successive governments have failed to learn the lessons from implementation of policy over recent decades and are not properly evaluating whether it’s really working. This is not good enough.”

Jones called for “stability and longer term perspective”, but warned this is difficult to achieve “with the normal rate of political churn”.

“Policymakers must look further over the horizon to better anticipate and prepare for the challenges and opportunities that the future of work will bring – and if they can’t easily, they should have access to something that can provide this,” he said.

“To tackle this, we believe there needs to be an independent body to oversee policy development, demonstrate best practice and model a more rigorous approach to implementation, as well as hold government to account over the effectiveness of its skills policy-making.

“This can provide a view of skills demands both now and in the future, and build a solid evidence base over time that can be used to formulate new policy. Importantly, it would also act as a centre to bring together people from across the skills and education ecosystem – along with employers – to ensure policy works for all.”

City and Guilds’ report also suggested “more and better” use of policy pilots, comparison groups, baseline/endline data comparisons and longitudinal impact studies is needed in policy development.

Other recommendations include developing a value for money framework for skills policy, similar to the frameworks already in place within the Department for Transport and the Department for International Development.

City and Guilds also urged government to seek to include a “reliable evidence base or rationale” when developing new targets and setting up impact measures to ensure programmes achieve policy objectives as well as quantitative targets.

Apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton, said: “As the City and Guilds Group report recognises, T Levels and the National Retraining Service are brand-new initiatives so we will make sure we get them right.

“Right from the start we worked with, and consulted employers and stakeholders to make sure that these initiatives benefit all students, employers get the skilled work force they need and the economy benefits as well.

“We will continue  that work as we progress and refine the initiatives where needed. I’m confident both T Levels and the National Retraining Scheme are going provide young people and adults with valuable opportunities and help to boost our country’s productivity.”