From education to employment

New Report: Running to Stand Still: Why Decades of Skills Reform Have Failed to Shift the Dial on UK Productivity & Investment in Training

FAB: Running to stand still

On 12 September, representatives from across the education and skills sector attended an event to launch a report analysing skills policy and its impact on productivity in the UK. 

The independent research, commissioned by the Federation of Awarding Bodies, reflects on 10 years of externally commissioned government skills policy reviews. Our resulting report consists of the analysis of this review, the progress of policy recommendations to date, and key findings from research interviews with 25 experts across the sector.  The report shares lessons for future skills policy that can be learned to achieve high impact skills policy reform that minimises burden on the sector.

The report’s co-author, Tom Bewick says

“This is the first major report to ask what a cross section of the post-16 skills and apprenticeship sector thinks about various policy reforms in recent decades to create a world-class workforce. What we found, was no lack of energy or enthusiasm, to make a difference. Undoubtedly, some innovative things have happened – in areas like qualifications reform.

“However, we called the report ‘Running to Stand Still’, because in the end, the main purpose of skills policy, should be to support rising real wages and economic growth. Despite the best efforts of successive governments, our detailed analysis of these policies, including the feedback from leading sector experts, found no evidence that various skills initiatives have really helped shift the dial on sluggish UK productivity rates. It’s why the report concludes with some of the key issues the next UK government will urgently need to address.”

John McNamara, Interim Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies commented:

“This wide-ranging and comprehensive report shines a new light on how significant reforms in UK skills policy over the past twenty years have failed to have a positive impact on productivity in the UK – the report highlights the key policy ‘pinch points’ that any incoming administration will need to address from day one. 

FAB will be taking forward the recommendations from the report as we review with members our main ‘asks’ of political parties in the run up to the general election. 

Our thanks go to Prof. Tom Bewick and Matilda Gosling for conducting the detailed research and writing the report, and to the many interviewees and experts that made it possible.

We also acknowledge the strong financial support provided by the FAB Platinum Partners for this ground-breaking project”.

In addition to the report, the Federation has also created an innovative look-up tool designed for those working in education and skills policy and research. Users can view the detailed recommendations that sit within each of the reviews, searchable by the extent to which each recommendation has been implemented by the UK Government. The Skills Policy Audit Database (SPAD) can be accessed here.

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