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Informing the development of skills strategies: Evidence and impact

The following evidence demonstrates impact of IER research on public policy, specifically the analytical practice of policy-makers in the UK and internationally as they develop skills strategies to enhance economic development generally and address future skills needs.

IER work has changed the analytical practice of these policy-makers. The following frameworks and indicators to inform the development of skills strategies have been created and involved:

  • Mapping of targets and performance indicators pertinent to employment and skills at sub-regional level.
  • Review and assessment of data sources for indicator development and recommendations for appropriate indicators.
  • The development of a conceptual targeting framework to support sub-national skills strategies.

These have been complemented by research developing high quality information on the current and future structure of the labour market and associated skills needs funded by various UK governments and international agencies. This has involved: developing an understanding of key drivers of change in the labour market, and especially the structure of employment by sector, occupation, qualification and geography; as well as applying econometric methods to develop computer models of the way the economy and labour market work, and which can then be used to forecast skills supply and demand. These provide robust and detailed indicators of the projected structure of employment by sector, occupation, qualification and geography (sub-national, national and pan-European). In aggregate the forecasts show future growth in high level non-manual occupations as well as continuing ‘replacement demand’ for workers in many sectors and occupations with projected net job losses because of the effects of retirements and mobility within the labour market.

All research has involved dialogue concerning research methodologies, good practice and research findings, with policy-makers and analysts in regional agencies, Sector Skills Councils, UK government (and the devolved nations), other national governments, the European Commission (and associated agencies – notably CEDEFOP) and the OECD.

Details of the impact

This field of IER research 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.

Healthy labour market indicators and frameworks: sub-national level

At sub-national level IER research informed development of 'healthy labour market indicators' to measure progress towards objectives in the East Midlands 'Framework for Regional Skills Action' (FRESA) and Regional Skills Partnership. The East Midlands Development Agency (emda) commissioned the IER to scope existing approaches to performance measurement in public policy and recommend a best practice approach. The IER report was described by emda as: “hugely influential in establishing a series of good-practice criteria for identifying socio-economic performance indicators … emda, and a number of other RDAs [Regional Development Agencies], have since applied both the resulting IER indicator selection criteria and the hierarchical framework in all subsequent target development … The IER report has contributed to clear improvements in process and practice in public policy performance measurement, and has been cited by Advantage West Midlands and the East of England Development Agency as a basis for their own approaches to performance measurement.” Work by IER informed a focus on raising the quality of employment in emda’s subsequent work.

The conceptual framework developed for FRESA was then adopted by the OECD LEED Programme to frame analysis for local policy-makers and the development of local/regional skills strategies. It is outlined in the Designing Local Skills Strategies handbook (Froy et al., 2009), as is case study work undertaken by Professor Anne Green on local skills development and the role of migrants in the rural area of Lincolnshire. It is cited in the OECD Skills for Competitiveness: A Synthesis Report (Froy et al., 2012); Professor Anne Green’s work also underpins the OECD Mapping Skill Supply & Demand Diagnostic Tool used to shape all OECD country studies in the ‘Skills for Competitiveness’ LEED programme and continues in the current ‘Local Job Creation’ programme.

Creating a base of labour market intelligence: national level

At national level Working Futures research is accessible to policy-makers via the UKCES website, where it is noted that: “These projections form a core part of the base of labour market intelligence that is available to support policy development and strategy around careers, skills and employment.” The UKCES Research Digest states: “Working Futures is based on a tried and tested model that dates back to the 1980s, and that is now internationally accepted as ‘industry standard” (Winter 2012: 9). The UKCES Deputy Director says it has: “…played a key role in influencing the development of strategy, policy decisions and investment in the areas of skills development and related policy” and the previous Director of Research and Policy asserts it is: “crucial to informed decision-making”.

Skills supply: international level

The reach of this work extends to international level. The CEDEFOP (2010) publication Skills supply and demand in Europe: medium-term forecast up to 2020 provides policy-makers, employers, skills providers, employment services and individual learners with better information to make more informed decisions. The CEDEFOP Head of Area Research and Policy Analysis notes: “this shared knowledge can help to improve the methods used in each country”, and continues that IER’s work has “played a key role in helping to develop a sound evidence base for policy in this area, responding to the needs of policy-makers at EU level”. The research was significant in developing the New Skills for New Jobs Agenda and is regarded by the European Commission as a key building block in developing the Employment 2020 strategy as highlighted by the Deputy Director-General for Education and Culture who states: “The leadership and research provided by the Warwick IER in the area of Labour Market Assessment and Skill Forecasting has informed public policy and helped to shape strategy at a pan-European level”. He continued: “The work has had an impact on policy, on public understanding of labour market developments and on practitioners.” Other countries are developing national systems for developing skills needs; Professor Rob Wilson led an international consortium developing the first such model for Bulgaria, where the Ministry of Labour endorses its influence on “methodology and practice”.

The continuing impact of IER research is evidenced by researchers’ close links with policy-makers on skills-related issues on Expert Panels and Advisory roles for UKCES, the Migration Advisory Committee, Government Office for Science and Department for Communities and Local Government.

Selected references to the research

  • Green, A.E. (2012). “Skills for Competitiveness: Country Report for United Kingdom”, OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, 2012/05. Paris: OECD Publishing.
  • Green, A.E., de Hoyos M., Jones P. and Owen D. (2009). Rural Development and Labour Supply Challenges in the UK: The Role of Non-UK Migrants’, Regional Studies 43:10, 1261-1273, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00343400801932318
(This is a peer reviewed journal article.)
  • Wilson, R.A. and Homenidou, K. (2012). Working Futures 2010-2020. UK Commission for Employment and Skills Evidence Report 41. Wath-upon-Dearne: UK Commission for Employment and Skills.
  • Wilson, R.A. (2013). Skills anticipation - The future of work and education. International Journal of Educational Research. Available form: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2013.03.013

  • Wilson, R.A. and Lindley, R.M. (2007). Pan European Skills Forecasts 2007. In: Zukersteinova, A. and O. Strietska-Illina (eds.) Towards European Skill Needs Forecasting, CEDEFOP Panorama Series, 137. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, pp. 7-26. ISBN 978-92-896-0479-6.
  • Wilson, R.A and Briscoe G. (2003). Modelling UK Occupational Trends. International Journal of Manpower, 24, 568-589.
  • CEDEFOP (2010). Skills supply and demand in Europe: medium-term forecast up to 2020. Paris: Publications Office of the European Union.

Underpinning research was funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and its predecessors, the East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and other Regional Development Agencies, CEDEFOP (the European Agency for Vocational Education and Training) and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), especially its Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) programme.