The sucess of the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) will be measured in terms of how well the current push towards lifelong learning is implemented, according to a study published today by the Institute of Education.
The report, entitled 'Education and Employment: the DfEE and its Place in History', marks the fifth anniversary of the DfEE and is the first study to analyse the department in detail, providing an historical account of the relations between education and employment in the 20th century and commenting on the current state of the DfEE.
Since the 1995 merger of the education and employment ministries instigated by the Conservatives, the DfEE has been the only government department in the world to take on responsibility for both areas. The study acknowledges that the DfEE has achieved notable successes and has a higher profile and more power than the two previous departments combined.
Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett, who was at the launch, used his speech to emphasise his governments commitment to closer links between learning and work.
Commenting in the Guardian on the report, journalist David Walker puts forward a sceptical view of the long term health of the department, noting that the shortage of skills relative to industry's needs has been an issue for nearly 50 years, and that the amalgamation of two government departments is by no means a guarantee of success.
Professor Richard Aldrich, one of the study's authors, also says that the DfEE has this challenge to overcome: "History shows that there has been no consistent relationship between education, training and employment. Education has often been used to keep people out of the labour market rather than to prepare them to enter it".
The complexity of the relationship between educational achievement and economic success is one which the department will have to grapple with - nothing about this issue is straightforward.
A full copy of the report (priced £15.99) can be obtained by telephoning 020 7612 6050 or by e-mailing [email protected].