The government’s record leaves much to be desiredby Nic Dakin / September 1, 2019 / Leave a comment
Thanks to the new report from Labour’s Life-long Learning Commission, together with the Social Mobility Commission having made it clear we must up our game on further education, we are at long last taking life-long learning seriously again. Indeed, new education secretary Gavin Williamson has said he will be leading his department’s work on further education and skills personally. This is all good news. But so often in politics people talk the talk and fail to walk the walk. And the reality is that the government’s record on life-long learning leaves much to be desired.
So why is life-long learning important? Why is it crucial that the government matches its headline-grabbing rhetoric with action? Life-long learning has a proud tradition of supporting individuals and communities. With people now having an average of 10-15 jobs in their lifetime, the need to reskill is crucial. Added to this new reality are the technological advances driven by the fourth industrial revolution, which is turbocharging the pace of change in our working environment. So, none of us can hide away from the need to be constantly learning new things.
What’s more, learning is a social good, making for a stronger and more resilient society. As people live longer, adult learning can provide the new stimulus and social interaction to keep them active and healthy for longer, which could mean significant savings for the NHS. Life-long learning can be an antidote to loneliness; prevention rather than cure.
If the UK is to compete after Brexit, we absolutely need to put money into equipping Britain with the skills it needs. But we should be careful of our obsession with measuring everything and only funding things that hit those outcomes. Yes, we need to be rigorous and get value for money, but if we only fund what is measured then that is all we will get.
“With people having an average of 10-15 jobs in their lifetime, the need to reskill is crucial”
Often what we really need is not easily measured. You must sometimes incentivise employers to invest in the skills of the future as well as what they desperately need right now.
Ultimately, the question is how to thrive beyond Brexit. Wouldn’t it be great if over the next…