Examining employment and skills challenges in the construction sector

Results from a major IFF Research study examining employment and skills challenges in the construction sector, the potential impact of proposed visa changes, and the future plans of employers, non-UK born construction workers and recruitment agencies, have recently been published by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The study provides robust, up to date evidence to help inform decision making by the UK Government, the construction sector and CITB in the run-up to, and following, Brexit.

The research found that the majority of employers with non UK-born workers do not consider the ‘low skilled’ visa route proposed in the government’s White Paper suitable for their business. Specifically, many felt that the 12 month time limit would be too short because training new workers will take much of that time, and many projects last longer than a year. Moreover, many have concerns that this visa will make it harder to recruit staff, lead to skills shortages, lead to difficulty retaining staff, and increase administration and red tape. The study also found that non UK-born workers are keen to ‘train to remain’, enabling them to move from a low to a high-skilled visa, while continuing to work in the UK.

Mark Winterbotham, the Director at IFF Research who led the research, commented “This was a challenging project to deliver, particularly getting permission and then interviewing migrant workers on construction sites, and in different languages, but the experience of undertaking similar work twice previously for CITB certainly helped. We’re very pleased the CITB have used the findings so quickly and developed recommendations for government to help ensure that the new migration system works for the construction industry.”

Non UK-born workers have long played a key role in the British construction industry, and currently accounting for 54% of the construction workforce in London. According to CITB Policy Director, Steve Radley, the industry is preparing to respond to this challenge by training more home-grown workers.

Launch of Creative Spark Year 2

Investigating a new educational landscape with Creative Spark

New Frontiers

Social researchers are used to handling data from a many diverse sources. In the space of a project timeline, a member of our team can, for example, gain a full understanding of a schools’ funding system, the main issues around racial harassment in UK higher education institutions (HEIs), or be able to recite the Graduate Outcomes Questionnaire word by word (one of us can do it backwards). Over many years of work within the HE sector, IFF have become experts in all kinds of areas within higher education and the broader education sector.

Every once in a while, though, a project comes along that feels particularly exciting; a true venture into unknown territory. IFF’s work, in partnership with research partner Ecorys, on the evaluation of the British Council’s Creative Spark programme very much fits this bill.

Whilst HEI portfolio development, partnership building and recruitment strategy are key areas that IFF work within, the evaluation of the Creative Spark programme, involving HEIs in the UK partnering with counterparts in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Armenia and Ukraine engaged us in the investigation a new educational landscape.

Meeting the Creative Spark team

The creation of Creative Spark began with a report conducted by IFF research on behalf of the British Council published in May 2018. The report looked at the potential for partnership growth between UK and the wider Europe HEIs in the field of ‘creative enterprise’, making recommendations on the formation of a higher education enterprise programme that could facilitate and structure these partnerships.

Fast forward to November 2019, and Elizabeth Shepherd and Laura Hilger from our HE team presented findings from this study, and the monitoring and evaluation approach at the launch of Creative Spark programme in Tbisili, Georgia.

The Creative Spark Programme

Creative Spark is a British Council-funded programme involving the seven Wider European countries mentioned above. It is ambitious both in terms of scope and intended impact, funding 38 partnerships between UK HEIs and Wider Europe HEIs in the first year; with an initial year one aim to reach over 10,000 students and young entrepreneurs via Train the Trainer sessions, curriculum development and wider university strategy development to improve local capacity.

In addition to its overall objectives, the Creative Spark programme emphasises the need for partners to reflect and act upon local social issues when considering the design of their activities, and selection of beneficiaries.

The programme represents therefore a truly a multi-disciplinary approach, focusing on enterprise education for students and young entrepreneurs, raising awareness of the creative industries on a national level, and facilitating beneficiaries to tackle the most prevalent and challenging local social issues in their entrepreneurial activities.

Monitoring and Evaluation for year one

Seven Countries. 38 Partnerships. 88 individual organisations. Two researchers conducting qualitative fieldwork visits (with a few days of Russian Duolingo to help).

The scale of the programme was certainly a key challenge in developing an evaluation approach in collaboration with our colleagues from Ecorys. In development of a theory of change and analytical framework, the following monitoring & evaluation (M&E) objectives formed the bed rock of our approach:

  1. Assessing effectiveness of Creative Spark and sustainability of its outcomes and impacts over time
  2. Demonstrating long-term outcomes and impacts on programme countries’ economic growth, regional stability and engagement with UK culture and trade, in line with the British Council’s M&E responsibilities to its funders
  3. Demonstrating how the programme supports social inclusion and gender equality
  4. Building evaluation capacity across the partnerships and the British Council
  5. Helping track programme / partnership progress in a way that is consistent across partnerships and countries

Whilst designing the evaluation tools it was important for us not only to consider cultural and language barriers, functionality and design of online surveys and suitable timing for data collection, but also to acknowledge that the monitoring and evaluation for years 3, 4 and 5 of the programme would be led by the British Council project teams in each country. It was therefore essential for us to design an M&E programme that could be useable by the British Council following IFF’s involvement.

Learnings from year one

Now this would be giving it away a little! Next week we’ll be presenting the key findings from year one of Monitoring and Evaluation of the Creative Spark Programme at Queens College Oxford as part of the year two launch.  As testament to the strength of the programme, the British Council have announced 12 additional partnerships which will be launched at the conference. More to come on that next week.

In the meantime, we will leave you with some pictures of the qualitative fieldwork visits across the seven Wider Europe countries which give some idea as to the enthusiasm, passion and dedication that partners and beneficiaries had for Creative Spark.

Visiting Kazakhstan

For more information on IFF’s work on monitoring and evaluation for the Creative Spark programme, and research within the HE sector please contact Elizabeth on Elizabeth.Shepherd@iffresearch.com

…And if you ever find yourself in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan waiting for a delayed flight, make sure you try the Laghman.

Author: Daniel Salamons, Research Manager

 

DfE’s 2019 Employer Skills Survey in full swing

We are delighted that this year’s Employer Skills Survey (ESS) is in full swing, with our interviewing services team busy speaking with respondents from around the country. Commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) ESS is one of the largest business surveys in the world with over 80,000 interviews conducted during each iteration. It informs public policy and provides the comprehensive source of labour market intelligence on the skills challenges employers face.

As we experience a period of increasing uncertainty, with extensive market forces impacting on employer skills needs and skills gaps, it has never been more important to understand the labour market. Given the importance of this research to inform public policy and support business, we’re really proud to have been chosen as the delivering research partner for both 2019 and 2021, continuing our 20-year involvement.

And, while neither its existence or launch will be news to many, there have been some notable changes to this year’s survey. Following extensive review and in collaboration with DfE and their partners in the survey: The Department for the Economy of Northern Ireland, and the Welsh Government, two key developments have been made to increase the value of the research and address gaps in the evidence.

  1. Merging ESS and EPS

The first notable change to this year’s research was the merger of ESS with its sister survey, the Employer Perspectives Survey (EPS).

The EPS focuses on what drives employers’ decisions around recruitment and people development. This insight serves to improve initiatives to help individuals find work, as well as improve initiatives that support business growth and development of the workforce, so they better meet the needs of employers. The EPS has previously been conducted in alternate years to the ESS capturing the views of over 18,000 employers across the United Kingdom.

This merger offers an exciting opportunity to:

  • Continue providing evidence on skills landscape and track changes over time
  • Enable employers’ actions to be linked to the skills challenges faced, thereby;
  • Answering new research questions, such as the relationship between skills shortages and recruitment practices, and the engagement in policy initiatives

2. Random Probability Sampling

Also new for this year’s iteration, following the continuous improvement and development cycle embedded in the survey’s history, is a change to the sampling strategy. Following extensive review in partnership with The Stats People, we’re trialling full random probability sampling in one region with over 7,000 employers. The trial alone, for a CATI survey, is a significant undertaking – and will be larger than many B2B CATI surveys deploying random probability sampling. This is an important step towards potentially rolling out full random probability sampling for the survey in the future, which would be on an unprecedented scale.

Together, these changes have balanced the need to continue this important time series, while using a modularised approach to bring in substantial new policy content on areas such as apprenticeships, traineeships, leavers from education and the employment of young people. This innovation aims to greatly increases the value of the survey to policy makers, allowing for the first-time examination of how employers’ actions are linked to the skills challenges they face.

“The Employer Skills Survey (ESS) is an extremely valuable survey, providing robust quantitative evidence on the skills that employers demand, both from the labour market and their existing staff, how employers respond to their skills challenges through training and recruitment, and their views of and engagement with the skills system.  We decided to merge the Employer Skills Survey (ESS) and Employer Perspectives Survey (EPS) this year, to maximise the value of both surveys by enabling cross-analysis of each survey’s topics.  The new merged survey will provide valuable insight on both employers’ internal skills challenges (formerly covered in the ESS) their engagement with the external skills and training system (formerly covered by the EPS), and how these inter-relate.”

Ramona Franklyn, Department for Education

Can’t wait for the 2019 results? Take a look at the 2017 results published last year.

Employer Perspective Survey 2016 results here.

More information about the 2019 survey is available here.

Landmark new study publishes first insights to help keep children safe

Keeping children safe is important, anyone would agree. But some of the people committed to helping the most vulnerable children and young people – child and family social workers and their organisations – are facing considerable challenges. Among them, recruitment and retention of high-quality social workers – one of the biggest risks to the future delivery of children’s services.[1]

A landmark new study, funded by the Department for Education, looks to change that. The first results from a study to understand social workers’ motivations and experiences of entering, staying and leaving the profession were published today (read the report here).

IFF research, leading a research consortium with Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Salford, are pleased to be at the forefront of tackling the challenge of social work recruitment and retention.

The findings provide a comprehensive picture of the issues facing child and family social workers and the factors influencing job satisfaction and retention. Overall, the majority of social workers who took part in the survey were motivated to enter the profession for altruistic reasons, found their job satisfying, felt loyal to their employer, and planned to stay in local authority child and family social work in the next 12 months.

Most were positive about their line manager, that they were open to ideas and recognised when they had done their job well. When asked about various aspects of their job, satisfaction was highest for having scope to use their own initiative and the sense of achievement they get from their work. The majority of social workers also felt their entry route had prepared them well for the profession.

The findings also suggest that 2-3 years post qualification is a crucial point, as people move out of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE year). There is merit in exploring how to better support the transition out of ASYE into experienced practitioner roles to support retention and develop resilience.

The majority of social workers who took part in the survey worked more than their contracted hours and the qualitative research revealed that social workers often expected to do so in order to fulfil their roles. Flexible working arrangements were welcomed to manage this issue, such as being able to work from home or while travelling, enabled by good IT. However, in the qualitative interviews, part-time work was perceived as a barrier to progression.

Around half of the social workers who took part in the survey felt stressed by their job. Often bureaucratic procedures and paperwork were seen as getting in the way of their time with children and families, and there is a need to explore ways to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.

The qualitative interviews identified that the major source of support for social workers was their relationship with their colleagues/ team, and both stayers and leavers talked about how critical this was for keeping them in social work practice. It is evident that organisational culture has a role to play in encouraging healthy working practices and increasing employee confidence in accessing the available support.

Improving public perception and raising the profile of and respect for the profession more widely, could help to attract more applicants.

The summary findings are shown in the infographic below.  Read the full report  for detailed insights on everything from the make-up of the workforce through to some of the reasons shared for leaving the profession.

Longitudinal Social Workers_DfE_Year 1 Infographic

Watch this space for future publications of the next waves of research findings.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/childrens-services-omnibus