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Impact and public engagement

IER has a strong, demonstrable record of success in achieving user impact with the policy and practitioner as well as academic communities. Our research evidence underpins national and international policy and practice on, for example, career guidance, the continuing vocational training strategy, the European New Skills for New Jobs initiative and the Beyond Current Horizons scenario work for the UK Government.

The following are examples of IER impact.

Shaping policy debate and practice on career development services

Pathways that individuals navigate through education, training and employment are becoming ever more complex and high quality labour market information (LMI) is crucial for careers advice and in informing decisions about where to invest in skills training. Research undertaken by Professor Jenny Bimrose, with
Professor Alan Brown, Dr Sally-Anne Barnes and Dr Deirdre Hughes has resulted in new policy frameworks for systems design and delivery of careers services; and has informed professional development in careers policy, research and practice. Internationally, the Institute for Employment Research has informed and shaped policy debate and practice on career development services in response to political, economic, technological and social changes.

High quality LMI is needed to improve the efficiency of labour markets by understanding the supply and demand for different skills. Research carried out by IER researchers has provided evidence of the need for high quality LMI for effective career guidance practice; contributed to the design of practical ICT solutions to address this need; and continues to inform policy and practice debates about the centrality of LMI for career development. This research has resulted in two main areas of impact: the first aimed at providing better information and ICT based resources for practitioners, and the second involving sustained interaction with policy-makers to provide advice and training. Find out more here. A summary is also available on the Warwick Business School website.

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Informing the development of skills strategies

Skills and employment are central to the economic development of local, regional and national economies. Different agencies and partners need high quality information, robust frameworks and indicators to generate intelligence about the current and future skills of the workforce (labour supply) and the skills required by employers now and in the future (labour demand). From this base data they devise strategies to improve and sustain a ‘healthy labour market’, providing high quality employment and enhancing productivity. Research undertaken at IER by Professor Anne Green, Professor Rob Wilson and other colleagues provided the tools to create this base data and understanding, and from which policy-makers have developed skills strategies to enhance economic development. Through the development of frameworks and indicators, and provision of high quality information and intelligence, IER research has shaped practice at sub-national, national and international levels. This impact is evidenced in UK Government-sponsored reviews and strategies, the European Commission’s New Skills for New Jobs and Employment 2020 agendas and the OECD Skills Strategy.

The research demonstrated the importance of developing a basket of 'healthy labour market indicators' rather than reliance on single measures. It underscored the relationship between demand and supply of skills (rather than a predominant focus on supply) in meeting economic development aspirations for regional/local economies. It has had a sustained impact on frameworks, information, indicators and intelligence used by policy-makers. It is embedded now in policy-makers’ analyses and routinely used in the work of policy-makers and practitioners on economic development and labour market assessment. It has helped to shape skills policy and strategy at all levels of government. Find out more here.

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Developing public policy modelling tools for the government of Georgia

The use of economic modelling in public policy is common practice in developed countries. Such practice, however, does not exist in many developing countries. Capacity-building and knowledge transfer are, therefore, essential tasks for governments in these countries.

In partnership with the funder, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Private Sector Development South Caucasus (PSD SC), and various Georgian stakeholders, the Ministry of Economics and Sustainable Development (MoESD) and the National Bank of Georgia (NBG), Dr Erez Yerushalmi is working to develop Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) modelling for Georgia. CGE models are analytical tools commonly used by countries and international institutions to simulate policy interventions. These models are useful when simulating policy intervention that have not yet occurred (i.e. ‘what if?’ scenarios). Common policy applications include fiscal, trade, social and regional policies as well as education and health care reforms. The project started in December 2012 with Dr Yerushalmi delivering intensive courses in CGE modelling in Georgia and helping to establish links between the local university, policy institutes and government bodies. The project included collecting, organising and updating new National Account data for Georgia and applying these data to four policy areas:

  • Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) between Georgia and the EU
  • Optimal investment strategies in Georgia
  • Promoting the Georgian banking sector
  • Exchange rate risk exposure in Georgia

The project is due to end in August 2015. On the back of its perceived success, talks are already taking place to extend the project to Azerbaijan. Find out more here.

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Understanding graduate labour market integration and higher education

Researchers at IER have been investigating the relationship between higher education participation and employment since the late 1980s. In particular, Professor Peter Elias and Professor Kate Purcell have conducted large-scale longitudinal surveys of several UK graduate cohorts out of higher education into their early careers. Peter Elias and Kate Purcell’s work led to the recognition that the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)’s Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey data had become an increasingly unreliable indicator of graduate labour market integration and led directly to the development of the first Longitudinal DLHE, for which Peter Elias and Kate Purcell served as advisors. In its more recent incarnation this work has generated The Futuretrack longitudinal survey, funded by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit. The project was directed by Kate Purcell with substantial involvement of Peter Elias in the survey design and analysis, with a research team including Gaby Atfield, Dr Heike Behle, Ritva Ellison and Daria Luchinskaya. A new occupational classification for graduates, SOC(HE)2010, has been developed and is now used by the UK Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) and graduate careers advisory services throughout the UK to assess the extent to which recent graduates are in appropriate employment for people with their skills and qualifications, and to monitor the relationship between the supply of and demand for graduate labour. The survey design and methodology have also influenced the subsequent collection of student and graduate labour market data nationally and internationally, and have led to the development of similar projects (e.g. in Brazil) leading to the potential for better international comparison of graduate labour market change.

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Providing evidence to shape and inform debates on apprenticeships and VET

With the introduction of Modern Apprenticeships in 1994, the vocational education and training (VET) system in England underwent a major transformation. Recent numbers of young people starting apprenticeships and the quality of provision raised some concerns. Consequently, significant vocational education and apprenticeship reforms were initiated in 2011 with the publication of the Wolf Report and in 2012 following the Richard Review of Apprenticeships in England. IER has a long established track record in researching and monitoring these changes in order to engage in debate and shape policy. In 2014, Dr Lynn Gambin was appointed Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Education Committee on the inquiry into apprenticeships and traineeships for 16-19 year olds. Drawing upon expertise and the programme of research on apprenticeships, training and skills, which she jointly leads with Terence Hogarth, Dr Lynn Gambin advised the Committee during the inquiry (House of Commons Education Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2014-15).

Since the early 1990s, IER has been engaged in a programme of research that has evaluated various changes to the VET system with respect to levels of employer and learner engagement and the returns each obtains from their investments in VET. The programme of research at IER has obtained substantial funding from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (and its predecessor ministries). IER has undertaken the Net Costs of Training series (See Employer Investment in Apprenticeships and Workplace Learning: The Fifth Net Benefits of Training to Employers Study, 2012), which has estimated the net cost to the employer of providing Apprenticeship and other forms of work-based learning. These studies provided an indication of the time taken by employers to recoup their investment in this type of training.

Terence Hogarth and Dr Lynn Gambin have also undertaken a number of empirical studies evaluating particular aspects of the VET system for UK Government departments. These studies look at employer rationales for investing in VET and the role of public funding and the how completion rates can be improved (See Factors Affecting Apprenticeship Completion Rates in England, 2015 and Employer investment in Apprenticeships in England: an exploration of the sensitivity of employers in the construction sector to the net costs of training, 2014). More recently, Dr Lynn Gambin and Terence Hogarth have obtained funding for international comparative research from Cedefop which will be completed in 2019. This follows on from their work On the way to 2020: data for vocational education and training policies for Cedefop (2013-2104).

This programme of research led by Gambin and Hogarth is regularly cited in many Government publications and their research is seen as providing definitive assessments of how changes in the VET system affects employer and learner behaviour. This research has had significant impact, as it has: provided the framework for evaluating the impact of apprenticeships and initial vocational and training more widely; been used in the National Audit Office’s review of apprenticeship training; provided an assessment of the returns to employers from investing in apprenticeships, influencing debate about the funding of VET; and developed a means of identifying the costs and benefits of training, used to persuade employers to participate in apprenticeships.

Find out more about this programme of research here.

Providing UK employment forecasts to inform analysis and policy development

The Working Futures series provides high quality information on UK labour market prospects to inform the decisions of policy makers, education and training providers, employers and individuals. It is regarded as one of the key research outputs funded by the UK Government’s UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). It has had a major impact in the areas of:

  • Development of careers information tools, including UKCES’ LMI for All and Careers of the Future open data tools
  • Informing collective decisions by employers concerning skills solutions and by employer-led bodies such as Industrial Partnerships to inform their strategic thinking
  • To facilitate providers’ understanding of future demand in the learning market, e.g., in Scotland for Regional Skills Assessments that inform Regional Outcome Agreements between Regional Colleges and the Scottish Funding Council
  • By national governments to inform analysis and policy development (e.g., development of UK industrial strategies) and by local organisations (e.g., Local Enterprise Partnerships) as a source of intelligence for strategy development of the local economies.

It is used by UKCES to inform planning and action in areas such as:

  • Scoping and development of competitions under the Futures Programme, the UK Commission’s initiative to work with employers in developing and testing new approaches in addressing workforce skills issues
  • Sector Labour Market Intelligence work, assessing the skills needs in particular sectors
  • Insights and policy advice, e.g., their Growth through People work.

The Institute for Employment Research, with partner Cambridge Econometrics, have been responsible for developing and conducting the previous five cycles of Working Futures. The latest cycle covers UK employment for 2014-2024. The current IER research team consists of Rob Wilson, Nick Sofroniou, Derek Bosworth, Anne Green and David Owen. Find out more about Working Futures.

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Helping Oxfam create decent work

Led by Chris Warhurst, IER has a newly established research theme centred on job quality that has quickly established an international expert profile. It leads the UK research on a pan-European project examining job quality, innovation and more and better jobs funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme, co-authored a report with the EU agency Eurofound on employment restructuring and job quality and published a book – Job quality in Australia: Perspectives, Problems and Proposals – and a number of journal articles/book chapters on job quality e.g. in the International Journal of Human Resource Management.

IER has now joined a partnership with the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) in a project for Oxfam to push for the adoption of a decent work policy agenda in Scotland. The project arises from a 2015 UWS-Oxfam Policy Forum focused on decent work and attended by 50 representatives from the Scottish Government’s Fair Work Convention, parliamentary researchers working on the (now) current Scottish Parliamentary Inquiry on Work, Well-Being and Wages, trade unions and third sector organisations. At this forum Warhurst was invited to present IER’s ideas on decent work and the requirements for an index.

As part of a two-way secondment, Sally Wright is now tasked with developing a Decent Work Index for Oxfam to better assess the state of the Scottish labour market and stimulate public debate about how policy makers and businesses can provide a range of minimum work and employment standards in Scotland. Given the current advocacy activities of Oxfam across political parties and across Scottish economy stakeholders, it is a significant opportunity for the project to have impact based on demonstrable conversion of IER’s research expertise into public policy.

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Boosting innovation and job quality to create more and better jobs in Europe

A key aim of the European Commission’s Europe 2020 strategy is to stimulate growth of high innovation, high job quality firms that create more and better jobs, which in turn tackle social inclusion and inequalities. The Quality of Jobs and Innovation Generated Employment Outcomes (QuInnE) is an interdisciplinary project investigating how job quality and innovation mutually impact each other at the organisation level, and the employment outcomes that result from this interaction. It is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Work Programme. A mixed methods research design will be used to examine the mutually-reinforcing relationship between innovation and job quality and its impact on employment outcomes. There are three main strands of research. The first strand involves policy analysis; at both EU and country levels. The second strand involves quantitative analysis undertaken at both the aggregate (EU-level by country and industry) and firm-level. The third (and largest) strand involves comparative case study research to probe firm-level behaviour in order to explain and understand the causal mechanisms behind the innovation-job quality- employment nexus. The project brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts from nine partner institutions across seven European countries (Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands and the UK). The project is coordinated by the Department of Sociology at Lund University, Sweden and runs over 2015-17. QuInnE’s International Scientific Advisory Board includes representatives from Eurofound, the OECD and ETUC.

IER leads the UK research. The integration of innovation and job quality are research foci within IER, with a number of journal articles/book chapters having been published including a book chapter titled ‘If It’s Innovation You Want, Think About Job Quality’ (Warhurst and Wright) in Reinventing the Company in the Digital Age, the latest addition to BBVA’s book series targeting industry and government opinion-formers. The IER staff involved in QuInnE are Professors Chris Warhurst and Anne Green, and Sally Wright. Professor Duncan Gallie, an Associate Fellow of IER and Emeritus Professor at Nuffield College University of Oxford, is also a member of the UK research team.

QuInnE will have three main areas of impact. First, new scientific understanding of the innovation-job quality-employment dynamic will inform the development of policy and practice in the field. Secondly, new diagnostic and developmental tools will be developed for practitioners and policy makers to monitor, measure and improve this dynamic at the firm, workplace and national levels. Thirdly, evidence-based advice will be developed for policy to boost innovation and economic and employment growth in the EU, along with an awareness of ensuing impacts on social inclusion and inequality.

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