In recent months we've seen the government interfering more and more in work-based training and learning. Does it mean that it thinks employers can't be trusted to deliver?
Are we seeing the creeping nationalisation of employee training and learning and development?
Certainly there is evidence that the government feels that training is too important to leave to the tender mercies of employers and that it has become an important instrument of policy in these increasingly dismal times.
Consider that in recent weeks we've seen the government pledge £350m to pay towards the cost of training employees of companies employing up to 250 staff, that Train to Gain expenditure is rising remorselessly and will reach more than £1bn in the financial year 2010-11, and that more and more workplace training will qualify for external accreditation – and much of that by publicly funded organisations.
I guess this is a natural outcome of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling reading John Maynard Keynes' hitherto unknown classic, Interventionist Economics for Dummies, recently published by Ladybird, which seems to be providing the faux-intellectual foundation for the current give-away today and hang tomorrow approach to pulling the western world out of the economic mire.
Of course, Keynesian thinking was based on circumstances in the 1920s and 1930s that were fundamentally different to those of today.
For example, the UK economy between the wars was far more self-sufficient than today's version, based as it is on credit, and shopping for overseas goods. Pumping public money into the economy 70 years ago did drive up output and jobs at home – as also demonstrated by one A Hitler – but such an approach would have to be far more sophisticated today if it is to have a worthwhile outcome. Otherwise, we'll just see shopaholics squander tax giveaways and rate cut windfalls on imported tat.
At least public money spent on training and development will remain mostly in the UK. It will benefit providers and – probably – learners. As Karen Woodward, director of business support at the Learning & Skills Council, says, the