What is the ‘high skills society’? Some reflections on current academic and policy debates in the UK, Policy Studies
Caroline Lloyd and Jonathan Payne
The UK government has committed itself to building a high skills future for the UK. However, despite widespread use of terms such as the 'knowledge economy', 'the high skills society' and 'the learning society', there remains much confusion as to the kind of economy or society different commentators are actually aiming at. The article seeks to add clarity to current debates by mapping the various visions to emerge from three key groupings: government and 'social actors', those writing from an educationalist background and those coming from a broadly industrial relations tradition. By highlighting the confusion, tensions and contradictions that exist, it soon becomes clear that high skills are far from being the consensual policy option they initially appear. It is only by opening up these issues that we can appreciate the different aims that exist at the centre of the UK skills debate and begin to confront the real political choices available.