Major DfE research says ‘no evidence’ the £350m Employer Ownership Pilot had impact



A £350 million employer ownership of skills pilot failed to have any impact at all, a damning evaluation report published by the Department for Education today has revealed.

The project, which ran from 2012 to 2017, was designed to test the effect that giving employers direct access to public funding had on their own investment in skills, or if it boosted skills in the workforce.

It failed on all counts, according to today’s evaluation report, written jointly by CFE Research and the University of Sheffield – in part because the money went to employers that were already involved in training.

The findings have prompted the Association of Employment and Learning Providers to call for an inquiry.

“There is no evidence to suggest that EOP has changed attitudes towards training or that it led to subsequent increases in the number of staff trained,” the report said.

This was partly due to “high levels of training already undertaken by EOP employers” and the “positive attitudes towards training they already held”.

“As such, EOP cannot be said to have reached a large cohort of employers that had not previously trained their staff.”

Further analysis showed that after one year employers in the pilot “do not report higher levels of training compared to a matched counterfactual group”.

This was based on “the proportion of employers delivering training; the average number of workers trained; and the average proportion of the workforce trained”.

Although the salaries of learners in the pilot “sometimes increased following the programme”, the level of increase was “no different to that experienced by other individuals on workplace training outside of EOP”.

“This whole exercise was a very sorry tale based on a poorly misguided reading of the skills marketplace,” said Mark Dawe, AELP chief executive.

“Lessons have been learnt, especially in relation to the apprenticeship reforms, about the importance of providers in supporting employers in the delivery of publicly funded programmes, but given this involved a budget which was half the size of the young people’s apprenticeship budget, we believe an inquiry is called for.”

The pilot was announced in November 2011 by former prime minister David Cameron (pictured above), who said he hoped “this radical new approach will encourage even more employers to take on apprentices and ensure that the UK workforce has the skills we need to boost growth”.

It was led by the now-defunct UK Commission for Employment and Skills, before responsibility passed to the DfE as part of the machinery of government changes in 2016.

A review of the first stage of the pilot, published in April 2015, found it had resulted in less than 40 per cent of the starts originally planned.

Today’s report found that around most employers involved in the pilot had a “positive experience”.

“We are pleased that learners and employers who took part in the pilot found the training beneficial,” a DfE spokesperson said.

“We have drawn useful lessons from this pilot, and employers remain at the heart of our skills programme.”

 



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  1. Simon Perryman

    Actually the report is worth a read in more detail. It actually says that data matching issues meant that there is “not evidence of no impact” as well as “no evidence of impact” in relation to quantity of training and wage levels. In other words they can’t tell. Part of the problem was that the employers involved were already strong at training so the impact is harder to discern.
    Also, the report is clear that they do not measure impact on quality of training, which is a pity, as quality and relevance was at the heart of the pilots.
    So, what did they find out? Half of the employers said the training was better than previously, 75% said it was good or very good, was value for money and met their needs. Half the learners said the training had helped them to advance their careers and a third had moved jobs of which half had been promoted. The in-depth interviews showed that employers welcomed the scope to collaborate and that rivalry and competition was not raised as an issue.
    The greatest challenge employers faced was with the administration of the scheme. It would have been good to understand these issues in more detail as efficient management of learner data with smaller firms undertaking short duration training is very tricky and because it seems a pity that skills policy has tended to turn away from business networks and collaboration, both of which have considerable potential in stimulating training in small firms and through supply chains.