Evidence Review on Employment Training

4th April, 2014

Earlier this week the Chancellor announced a new government target, full employment, which represented a shift in the government’s approach away from only focusing on growth to one that also considers jobs. As many commentators have already said, achieving full employment will require helping some of those individuals that are not currently in the labour market or looking for work to find jobs. So it’s timely that today we launch the first of the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth’s evidence review which looks at this issue.

We looked at over a thousand pieces of evidence, narrowing this down to 71 evaluations which provide convincing evidence on the impact of training.

These evaluations clearly show that employment training can have a positive impact on people’s income and employment prospects. They also suggest some ‘best bets’ – things that tend to work in the employment training policy field based on the best available impact evaluations. For example, shorter programmes tend to have a better impact than longer ones, and involving employers improves outcomes as well. You can read more on how to use our reviews here.

When it comes to programme design, we found large gaps in the evidence base. Not surprising, perhaps, but worrying when you think that the evidence base for this policy area is much larger than for others, such as our next topic, business advice.

It’s also important to note that only around half of the programmes evaluated showed consistently positive results. 22 evaluations found mixed results, nine studies found that training interventions didn’t work (i.e. they found no evidence of positive outcomes on employment or wages) and a further five found negative impacts.

This points to the crucial need to improve evaluation of future employment training programmes – both to assess whether that particular programme is working and to gain a better understanding of what works, where. This requires changes to the policy cycle so that evaluation is embedded in policy design and results of evaluation feedback in to future policy decisions.

These reviews represent a first step in improving our understanding. In the months ahead we will be working with local decision makers and practitioners, using these findings to help them generate better policy.

I hope that you find the report useful and thought-provoking. Please get in touch with feedback at info@whatworksgrowth.org, or at one of our roundtable sessions around the country.

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