Employment Training

Employment training programmes for adults can have a positive, although modest, impact on earnings and employment.

Evidence review

Employment Training - Evidence Review-01.png

In this section you can read the summary findings of our systematic review of employment training. We have also created a policy design toolkit to help you to make informed decisions when developing employment training policy. Each policy design guide covers a specific aspect of programme delivery. Go to the toolkit.

This review considered almost 1,000 policy evaluations, evidence reviews and meta-analyses from the UK and other OECD countries. 71 met the Centre's minimum standards.

Policy design can influence effectiveness. For example, short courses and on-the-job training may help improve employment outcomes.

What the Evidence Showed

  • Training has a positive impact on participants’ employment or earnings in around half of the evaluations reviewed.
  • Shorter programmes (below six months, and probably below four months) are more effective for less formal training activity. Longer programmes generate employment gains when the content is skill-intensive.
  • In-firm / on the job training programmes tend to outperform classroom-based training programmes. Employer co-design and activities that closely mirror actual jobs appear to be key design elements.
  • The state of the economy is not a major factor in the performance of training programmes; programme design features appear to be more important than macroeconomic factors.

Where the evidence was inconclusive

  • Comparing different skill content training – such as ‘basic’ versus ‘advanced’ interventions – is extremely difficult: finding suitable comparators (i.e. policies that target similar groups using different types of training) is challenging, and skill content usually reflects real participant differences.
  • Training programmes that respond to structural shocks in the local economy are usually highly tailored to a given local context. This means that pulling out generalisable findings on impact is difficult.
  • It is hard to reach any strong conclusions on private-led versus public-led delivery on the basis of the (limited) available evidence.

Where there was lack of evidence

  • We have found little evidence which provides robust, consistent insight into the relative value for money of different approaches. Most assessments of ‘cost per outcome’ fail to provide a control group for comparison.
  • We found no evidence that would suggest local delivery is more or less effective than national delivery.

Below are some key points for policymakers to consider. You can also learn about our methodology and how to get the most out of our reviews by reading our guide.


  • Involve employers in training: in firm and on the job programmes are more effective.
  • Where participants forgo income during longer training programmes, they may need additional support.
  • Short programmes have a positive impact on larger numbers of people, so appear to be better value for money.
  • There is no difference in success rates between locally delivered or nationally delivered programmes.
  • The impact of training on employment is modest and should not be oversold.

Some policy design features can be cheaper and more effective than others. See our employment training toolkit to find out more.


Related Content

Register for WWG Updates