How politicians can mind the closing doors

If politicians can't learn from past mistakes, they risk another three decades of going around in circles

16 January 2015 / Be the first to comment

Have you ever seen someone get stuck between the doors on the tube? They know there's another train in two minutes, but they don't care.

They want this train, and they'll do anything to make it. So they take off like Superman and leap onto the train, only to find themselves hopelessly caught between the closing doors.

Talk about embarrassing, and painful! After that experience, some will decide it's better to just wait for the next train. Yet others will find themselves in the exact same predicament the following day. It's hard to learn from past mistakes.

Only constant is change

That's what we found when we looked at the last 30 years of skills and employment policy in the UK. Our report, 'Sense & Instability: three decades of skills and employment policy,' shows just how much upheaval it's had to endure.

It started in the 80's when NVQs were introduced. They were followed by GNVQs, ACVEs and Applied GCSEs - all before getting scrapped in 2007. That's a lot of acronyms to keep track of!

And if that wasn't confusing enough, there have been 61 Secretaries of State responsible for skills since Margaret Thatcher's time - almost four times as many as higher education. It's no wonder that policy has changed so much over the years.

Give it time

Not all of those changes were bad. Some great policies were proposed over that time, but very few were given enough time to work before getting axed.

That's because too many politicians made dramatic overhauls the moment they got into power without considering what worked well in the past. Will this General Election be any different?

Resisting temptation

It's already looking like a close race, and candidates will do everything they can to one-up the competition. That means big promises, especially about apprenticeships - a favourite buzzword of politicians right now.

And apprenticeships are every bit deserving of that spotlight. But such attention usually means that politicians will be looking to make their mark.

It's crucial that they resist the temptation to overhaul the entire skills and employment system, neglecting every policy that came before.

The more they tamper, the more they risk undoing the system's credibility and effectiveness. That's bad for individuals, businesses and the economy.

Think before you leap

That's why we're calling on politicians to think before they leap. City & Guilds wants to see long-term planning instead of short-term headline grabbing.

If politicians can't learn from mistakes and leave policies in place long enough to make a difference, they risk another three decades of getting caught in the tube doors.

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

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