The history of the Employment Department started in 1909 when the Board of Trade opened the first Labour Exchanges. In 1917 the Ministry of Labour was set up and took over the re-named Employment Exchanges.
The Ministry entered its most famous phase in 1968 when it became the Department of Employment and Productivity under Harold Wilson's Labour government. Barbara, now Baroness, Castle took over as Secretary of State and led a famous attempt to modernise industrial relations; proposals, entitled In Place of Strife, which foundered on the rocks of union opposition.
Only two years later, the name was changed again when the Productivity part was dropped.
In 1974 the department started to develop the more complex profile of later years. It was massively expanded to develop training programmes for the young unemployed under the newly-established Manpower Services Commission. These included the Youth Opportunities Programme and its successor, the Youth Training Scheme.
In 1987 the Employment Service was set up as an agency within the department. Three years later, the training and enterprise councils arrived, part of a new drive to link commerce and education.
The future of the department has latterly been the subject of much speculation with right-wingers branding it the useless stump of Labour interventionism, and liberals urging the merger of education and training. Former permanent secretary Michael Bishard this week admitted to the Employment Select Committee that last week's dramatic disappearing act was to some extent predictable.