I say this is Blairism not just because it echoes Blair's belief that "education is the best economic policy there is", but because it represents a continuation of Blairite managerialist ideology.
Ewart Keep has pointed out that, for years, training policy has rested upon numerous dubious ideological premises. I'd highlight four such premises:
1. The assumption that everyone is trainable - that the crooked timber of humanity can be shaped into productive, trained workers. Maybe this is true if you invest in people in their early years. But is it really true of people who have left school? What if some people just lack the cognitive or non-cognitive skills to get a decent training? What about those with special needs?
2. The belief that one can foresee future demands for workers, and that this future will be one in which skills are in demand. But it ain't necessarily so. One feature of today's economy, as Frances says in this book, is "a hollowing–out of the middle as routine medium–skilled jobs are automated." We're seeing a process of job polarization, in which demand for middling skills is falling. This is consistent with what Brynjolfsson and McAfee describe. Jobs that could be done by algorithms, they say, will be done by robots. This could hurt those with office skills more than it hurts unskilled building labourers, men with vans or window-cleaners. In such a world, having middling skills might merely equip one to compete better for low-wage work rather than to get a good job.
3. The belief that skills will get people into good jobs. This deflects the blame for unemployment onto the jobless themselves. It invites us to regard unemployment and low wages as individual failings rather as a result of macroeconomic factors such as a lack of aggregate demand or a shift in the balance of class power which enables bosses to pay low wages.
4. The presumption that one function of government should be to act as a human resources department, ensuring that capitalism gets a supply of willing workers. Miliband wants to "give business the productive workforce they need." He doesn't ask: if business wants something, why doesn't it do what the rest of us have to do when we want something, and pay for it? Again, this is New Labourism. As Stuart Hall said (pdf), Blair thought government should be in the business of "vigorously adapting society to the global economy's needs, tutoring its citizens to be self-sufficient and self-reliant in order to compete more successfully in the global marketplace."
Now, I don't say this to wholly decry the policy; I'm not sure it's as mean-spirited as some reports have made it out to be, and it's possible that some youngsters could get a helpful chivvying into a good training scheme. Let's just remember that it rests upon some very questionable ideological assumptions - ones which serve to underpin the power of capital.