The government will audit the results of its employer satisfaction survey for the first time, due to concerns over the way it is distributed by providers.
The ESFA said it would provide “additional quality assurance” in this year’s survey, in new guidance, in order to ensure the data is comparable between providers.
It specifically wants to “ensure that colleges and training organisations are using the prescribed methods to survey their employer customers”.
To pass the audits, providers must email their employers with a link to the survey along with their employer ID.
The ESFA claims this is the “best method” for surveying, as results are “instant” and easily comparable.
If employers are more likely to respond by paper, a hardcopy of the questionnaire can be sent.
The guidance makes clear, however, that interviews must not be done over the phone or in person as employer confidentiality “must be protected”.
The agency will “monitor” cooperation with the rules through its audits, which have been introduced to ensure comparability.
The questions themselves will also be different this year.
These are being updated to “ensure the survey continues to provide information that employers find useful”, but the agency did not provide examples.
As with previous years, the survey will be provider-led, requiring colleges and training organisations to administer it to their employer customers themselves in the first instance.
If providers are unable to meet their minimum response target, the ESFA will step in and ask the polling company Ipsos MORI to contact employers directly to gather the answers.
The employer satisfaction survey runs every year. It asks employers to rate their pleasure with different aspects of training delivered by individual college and training organisations.
The data collected then allows employers to make comparisons.
The survey for 2017/18 will start on March 26.