Left Foot Forward article by Amanda Ramsay on TOTP – skills (Jan 2012)

Policy in the pub: The future of UK skills

By Amanda Ramsay


First published by Left Foot Forward.

The opportunity for party renewal must be the only positive about opposition; converting political unease and hunger for government into a winning agenda of policies to win the electorate’s votes and affect change.

Pragmatic Radicalism’s quick-fire policy debates, ‘Top of the Policies’, offer Labour Party members the chance to present and discuss ideas, with the future of UK skills being the latest policy area tackled this week in Westminster’s Barley Mow pub, chaired by Michael White of the Guardian.

Pragmatic Radicalism – or @PragRad as it’s now known – is an eclectic mix of Labour voices from all wings of the party, who write and present short policy in the pub ideas. Facing quick-fired Q&A sessions, policies are then voted on in a secret ballot.

Pragmatic Radicalism’s founder John Slinger says:

“The idea of Pragmatic Radicalism is to generate new ideas that will help Labour and the shadow cabinet as they map out a vision for the country.”

A joint event with unionlearn and Unions21, the skills debate saw Jake Hayman, director at Future First, win the vote on the night hands down with his scheme for an alumni network covering every state school in the UK.

He explained:

“Utilising former students as relatable role models, who can raise awareness of key skills needed in the real world of work, motivating current students to take the initiative to develop these skills.”


Second place went to Anthony Painter, political writer and chairman of Hackney University Technical College, after arguing the case to create a new and high quality technical education from 14+, saying:

Student strengths are varied and so the education system should be.”

My idea has already been given support in principle by Microsoft partnering, for a national skills mentoring scheme. This came in as joint third most popular proposal, along with Allan Graveson, national secretary of Nautilus International, who spoke about the need for fiscal incentives and tax credits for training, with an employment obligation on the organisation or company involved.

Hayman’s alumni idea is backed-up by Future First’s research that shows 39 per cent of 16 to 19 year olds who went to state school do not know anyone in a career in which they would like to work. He wants to find practical role models for them.

My skills mentoring scheme was similar in essence, to start a national register of experts and organisations, to give of their time, advice and expertise (and donations to part-fund scheme) to help as mentors, setting-up opportunities to access on-the-job skills for CV-building, through structured work experience, initially for young people aged 14-25, then rolling the programme out to those re-training for career change.

Mixing it up with old school politics in the pub, other speakers included John Edmonds (GMB) and former MP Parmjit Dhanda. All ideas can be found here.

Pragmatic Radicalism started life as a pamphlet in 2011. There will be more debates this year. If you want to get involved or wish to join the mailing list, please contact PragRad editor John Slinger

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