By Claire West

Skills minister John Hayes last night signalled a new vision for craft and vocational skills as he spoke of the re-emergence of the Guilds and announced an ambition to create a new and prestigious award for Craft.

The minister was at the RSA to deliver a speech on how practical and skills have evolved through history and the role they must now play in contributing to both the growth of the economy and an individual’s employability prospects and wellbeing.

John Hayes, said:

“For decades, people have been calling for greater parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications. But those calls have invariably fallen on deaf ears. Instead, we’ve seen the demotion of practical learning.

“The Arts and Crafts movement recognised the unbreakable link between satisfaction in work and quality of life — between craft and beauty.

“It’s been clear since even before guilds and livery companies existed that different sectors require specific skills, and that it therefore makes sense for sectoral bodies to be closely involved in designing training and qualifications and in setting standards.

“I know that the sector skills councils, trade organisations, livery companies and others are keen to build on the good work they already do. That’s why the Government will work to establish a circle of Guilds to be at the heart of the re-evaluation of the power of practical learning”

In his speech to an audience of RSA fellows, employers and members of the FE and skills sector, the minister called for a “revaluation” of the way that skills are seen and the value they add to individual employment prospects, life experience, national economic prospects and the character of a civil society and to the economy in order to stimulate and maintain growth.

The four ways in which the minister says the system can grow are:

Continuing and intensifying efforts to re-establish the apprenticeship as the primary form of practical training;
Re-evaluating and redefining what sector led skills system with a place for Guilds might look like;
Continue to support and protect adult community learning and the role it plays in enriching the lives of individuals and contribute to local communities; and
Break down the barriers to progression so the route for any individual from basic skills to higher learning is accessible and effective.
The government is now working to support a new award for excellence in the crafts, John Hayes added.

He said:

“I think it is right that excellence should be rewarded and the Government will work over the next few months with those working to support the crafts, including the various charities under the Patronage of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, to encourage and reward excellence in this area.”

John Hayes said that it is time to debate the way practical skills are taught, learnt and valued. A website will be set up where comments on the minister’s speech and the points from his speech can be submitted.