Prime Minister’s skills speech “not a convincing” response to rising unemployment


In the Media

Philip Booth writes a letter to The Telegraph

Contact: Emily Carver, Media Manager, 07715 942 731

Responding to the Prime Minister’s plans to reform the education system post-Covid, IEA Editorial and Research Fellow Professor Len Shackleton, said:

“Boris Johnson’s speech indicates that the Government is recognising that we can only go so far in supporting existing jobs, and that we must prepare for a future where many people are going to have to find new work. For some this will mean first acquiring new skills and qualifications; however, the speech lacks specifics.

“The Prime Minister has made a time-honoured distinction between ‘academic’ and ‘practical’ skills, although there is little here to explain how exactly this shift will occur. Successive governments have made the same noises.

“Extra funding for people without A-levels may be sensible, but it is not clear that there will be a massive demand for lower-level qualifications from either students or employers.

“The offer of more flexible support for higher education and spreading study over longer periods is welcome in principle, but again there is little to suggest how this will work in practice. There is no evidence of a more fundamental change, such as linking a university’s funding to the success of its graduates, which might incentivise new forms of provision.

“This speech is worthy, but it amounts to neither a convincing response to rising unemployment nor to a radical change in adult education.”


Notes to editors

For media enquiries, please contact Emily Carver, Media Manager, on 07715 942 731.

Professor Len Shackleton is available for interview and further comment.

For further IEA reading on education reform:

To a Radical Degree: Reshaping the UK’s Higher Education for the post-pandemic world

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.