What does the Lib Dem manifesto mean for careers

I’m working my way through all the manifestos for parties in the current election to see what they have to offer for careers. I started with the current government (pretty much ignores careers), then went to the Labour Party (not bad on career, but not so good on the wider economic and public sector picture). So, I guess now it is time for the Liberal Democrats.

For people reading this outside the UK, the Liberal Democrats are Britain’s third party. They were regularly in government until 1915, but then had a fallow period out of government until they propped up a Conservative government from 2010-2015. For the twenty or so years before that they were often pretty indistinguishable from the Labour Party on most issues, but found an enthusiasm for cutting public services whilst in the Coalition. In part because of that their vote collapsed and they have not troubled the front pages too much since.

This election they have managed to get some attention by performing a range of ridiculous but sometimes amusing stunts. So you can see their leader riding a bike, a rollercoaster, a rubber ring, a paddle board etc (google ‘Ed Davey stunts’) to find out what he’s been up to this week. But the funniest was them sailing a boat behind Rishi Sunak as he tried to look natural talking to some rowers.

This is all symptomatic of one of the many failings of our democracy, which is that a first-past-the-post system quickly squeezes out smaller parties of all types and so the only way that they can compete is by doing more televisual things than Kier Starmer and Rishi Sunak who just wander around in suits trying to protect gravitas.

But, all of these stunts, plus the silent political zig zagging of the Lib Dems over the last few years have left me (who is basically a political geek) with almost no idea of what they actually stand for (other than not being the Labour Party or the Conservative Party).

Their manifesto is called For a Fair Deal and is hampered by some terrible web design that makes it unreadable. But, after a while I found the PDF (here). The headlines are the usual, strong economy (with an industrial strategy), good public services (with some progressive taxes), the environment won’t burn so much (including some green investment and edging towards some carbon taxes), plus some less common bits, they will try and rejoin the EU (in the long term) and reform democracy. All in all it is fine, but not very ambitious stuff and mainly feels like fiddling round the edges. To be fair there is half a big idea in their plans to reform the care system, but I think that I will leave others to comment on that in more detail.

If you want to find out more The Guardian offer a quick run through, the Institute of Fiscal Studies go deeper and more critical (although to be fair they have been exasperated with all the parties).

But what do they have to say about careers…

Careers

They will invest in careers advice and employer engagement for young people, but there don’t seem to be any details on what this will actually involve and the costing document that I can find is at a very high level and so doesn’t really give any idea of what this is.

Nothing on young people outside of schools (NEETs) or adult guidance that I can find.

Education

The offer for education looks OK. A bit more money, strengthening early years, some targeted support for disadvantaged pupils, some grants for adults to access lifelong education (although these look very small and are presumably meant to include some individual or employer contributions as well). Claims that they can sort out teacher retention, reform the curriculum, increase extra-curricular activity, reform Ofsted etc. All fine, but all small beer and all vague.

Some interest in reforming the apprenticeship levy and turning it into a broader skills levy, but also lots of positive stuff about apprenticeships.

Unlike the other parties they do have some plans on higher education, but on closer examination these are mainly sneaky ways to get back in bed with the EU (I agree with these sneaky ways, but that is what they are). No mention of the fact that the higher education funding system is about to fall over, but this is a fact that all the parties are ignoring.

Employment

Slim pickings here as well. Some interesting stuff about employee ownership and some strengthening of workers rights, parental leave and sick pay. Mainly all limited and vague.

Overall

The Lib Dem manifesto is basically the same as the Labour manifesto, but just a bit vaguer. They are more enthusiastic about micro policies and less thoughtful about the big stuff, but overall it is pretty similar. They are however weak on understanding on careers and employment issues, which in the unlikely event that they end up anywhere near government again is something that we will need to work on as a sector.

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