Speaking at a briefing on Monday, Kerslake said that as the civil service gets smaller, there will be a “higher premium on this sort of cross-Whitehall initiative”. When the civil service needs to develop particular skills, “we’re more likely to get it right if we do [it] as a corporate exercise, and see this capability as a corporate resource,” he added. It is “a key part of getting stronger [as a service] to not see everything in individual departments”.
The MPLA’s model of a “cross-Whitehall, targeted improvement in areas where we need to get better” may be extended to other areas, said Kerslake, suggesting that commissioning and procurement skills are “key areas we might explore as a next wave”.
The Major Projects Leadership Academy (MPLA), a partnership between government and Oxford’s Saïd Business School, will train 50 civil servants a year to lead complex projects effectively, improving the likelihood that projects will be delivered successfully and reducing government’s reliance on consultants.
Every department involved in major projects “will be expected to participate”, Kerslake said. In future, all the senior responsible officers of major projects will need to have completed the MPLA course.
The academy will accept its first cohort of 25 officials in October. They will undertake a one-year course, followed by a two-year development plan.
The MPLA will cost £6.7m in its first year, which is being met by the Cabinet Office. After this period, the cost of sending officials to the academy will be met by departments from their own budgets.