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.

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.

IFF Research leads redevelopment of the UK Employer Skills Survey for the Department for Education

IFF is delighted to have been commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to continue our long running involvement with the UK Employer Skills and the UK Employer Perspectives Survey series. This is one of, if not the largest business-to-business survey conducted in the UK (and further afield), and the 2019 study will involve a survey of over 80,000 employers.

We have been commissioned to undertake a major review of the sampling and questionnaire design, using our many years of experience to merge the previously two separate surveys (the UK Employer Skills Survey and the UK Employer Perspectives Survey) into one. Later this year we will resume our role as Lead Contractor (responsible for delivering and quality assuring all aspects of the study from sampling, piloting, fieldwork, through to data reduction, analysis and reporting) and one of three fieldwork contractors. We are looking forward to continuing these roles, which we have previously held for past iterations of the UK Employer Skills Survey in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

This is a very exciting win for IFF. This is in no large part because of it is size, scale and importance: in measuring employer demand for skills, the recruitment challenges employer face, and their training response, and by enabling detailed analysis by region, LEP, sector and occupation, the research will provide valuable insight to develop and assess labour market policy in what are likely to be challenging years ahead.

Results of the previous UK Employer Survey and UK Employer Perspectives Survey can be found here:

UK Employer Skills Survey

UK Employer Perspectives Survey

IFF’s sixth report on research among post-16 providers published by DfE

The report from the latest wave of the Post-16 Institutions Omnibus, which IFF conducts for the Department for Education, has just been published. This is the sixth wave that IFF has conducted. It presents the findings of telephone interviews with Head Teachers and Principals of over 400 post-16 institutions (FE colleges, sixth form colleges etc.) and almost 250 private training providers in England. This wave covered such topics as AS and A level reform, careers education, mental health, provision at Level 4 and 5, teacher workloads, and the Prevent Duty and Fundamental British Values.

Click here for the full report.

IFF’s School Snapshot Study report published by the DfE

We’re very pleased that the findings from the second wave of the School Snapshot study that we undertake for the Department for Education has just been published. Involving over 750 interviews with school leaders and 1,000 interviews with classroom teachers, this wave explored a wide range of hot topics in education including the English Baccalaureate, GCSE reform, curriculum planning, teacher workloads, systematic synthetic phonics, pupil behaviour, access to nutritious food, sanitary products, mental health, and careers education.

The full report can be found here.

For more information speak to Mark Winterbotham.

E: mark.winterbotham@iffresearch.com

Deciding where to study – Findings from IFF’s high profile evaluation of the TEF

This week, the annual mid-January scramble for students to finalise their UCAS applications has once more come and gone, with one key question causing stress in households across the country:  where should I study? The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) seeks to help students make this decision, assigning Gold, Silver and Bronze awards to HE providers across the UK that denotes the relative quality of the teaching that they provide, and the outcomes of their students. IFF are delighted to see that our evaluation of the 2016-17 provider-level TEF has been published by the Department for Education today, see here for the full report.

This research evaluated the second year of the provider-level TEF against its objectives, considering the views of two key stakeholder groups: applicants to Higher Education courses for the 2018/19 academic year (close to 3,000 were interviewed) and Higher Education providers (311 staff participated, covering 195 unique institutions).

The applicant side of the research evaluated applicant awareness of the TEF, how the TEF is used by applicants and its role in their decision-making processes. We found that around a third of all applicants to HE courses had some knowledge of the TEF at the time of their application while 15% of all applicants used the TEF in their decision making. A further 11% of all applicants reported that they changed their application choices as a result of seeing the TEF awards, for example submitting their choices in a different order of preference. These are promising signs for the TEF and, should awareness of the TEF increase as anticipated, it suggests that the framework could become a widely used tool to inform future applicants’ choices around where to study.

The provider side of the evaluation explored how providers felt the TEF was performing and what impacts had occurred as a result. While there was some debate regarding its design and the criteria that inform the TEF, a majority of providers felt that TEF will be able to achieve most of its objectives: for example, 68% thought the TEF would raise esteem for teaching while a further 57% felt that it would better inform student choice. More pertinently, the study showed that the TEF has already contributed to changing practices within institutions, especially among institutions that received a Bronze TEF award. As a result of the TEF award that they received, a number of providers had already started to develop and invest in new initiatives aimed at boosting the student experience and student outcomes.

On the same day that the report was published, the DfE announced the TEF independent review and IFF will be keenly following its progress in the wake of today’s report.

For more information speak to blog authors Andrew Skone-James and Sam Whittaker.

E: andrew.skonejames@iffresearch.com

E: sam.whittaker@iffresearch.com

Seven aspects of engagement pilot (Qualitative Evaluation) – Findings from IFF and the University of Derby published by the Department for Education

The findings from IFF’s qualitative evaluation of the seven aspects of engagement pilot have recently been published by the Department for Education, see here. We completed this study in partnership with Dr. Deborah Robinson at the University of Derby.

In 2017 an independent review led by executive headteacher Diane Rochford recommended removing “P scales” as the statutory assessment tool for pupils working below the standard of the national curriculum assessments. For pupils with profound and complex learning difficulties and disabilities, it suggested replacing “P scales” with assessment against the 7 aspects of engagement for cognition and learning. DfE piloted this new assessment approach during 2018 before deciding on whether to introduce it on a statutory basis.

The pilot was evaluated by IFF and the University of Derby, using depth interviews with teachers, and a series of school-based case studies. Pilot schools were largely enthusiastic about using the 7 aspects of engagement for formative assessment as it enabled them to deepen their knowledge of pupils’ responsiveness and identify ways they could increase engagement levels in a pupil-centred way. Where schools had concerns these were around resource requirements, how best to interpret the results of the assessments, and how to communicate these to parents.

On the day the report was published, the schools Minister, Nick Gibb, announced that this new assessment approach for pupils with complex disabilities will replace “P-scales” from 2020. Informed by the pilot findings, Diane Rochford will now lead an expert group to refine the approach before it is rolled out nationally.

Creative Spark: IFF’s Elizabeth Shepherd contributes to Higher Education Enterprise event in Georgia

IFF’s Elizabeth Shepherd is providing a UK sector overview on driving Creative Enterprise Research and best models from the higher education sector at the British Council’s Creative Spark: Higher Education Enterprise Programme.

The event brings together representatives from the UK and all participating countries involved in Georgia today to kick off their plans.

Each country will be granted a maximum of £50,000 across the 35 new international partnerships between higher education and creative institutions in the UK, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The winning partnerships including Georgian cultural institutions are: Creative Georgia and Tbilisi State Academy of Arts to partner with Advantage Creative; Georgian Technical University with Keele University; Creative Georgia with University of East Anglia, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University and V. Sarajishvili Tbilisi State Conservatoire with University of Essex Change School and Ilia State university with University Of The West Of England in Bristol.

The initiative aims to address to an underdeveloped creative sector and a demand for entrepreneurship training in these countries. The UN has previously recognised the creative economy as being one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy. Creative Spark aims to give the next generation opportunities to develop skills required to compete in a global job market.

IFF’s Elizabeth Shepherd is speaking at a number conferences across the UK and Europe this month with the contributing to the Graduate Employment Conference on November 22nd and the University Market Insight Conference on November 27-28. Click here for details of IFF’s Higher Education work and these upcoming dates.

Perceptions of the UK’s unique Higher Education offer – views from international students

A new report published today by IFF Research, conducted in partnership with UK NARIC, aims to uncover current international opinion of the UK’s unique qualification offer, including the existing provision of one-year Master’s courses and the possible increased future provision of Accelerated Degrees.

The report provides unique insights into how international students perceive UK qualifications. In collaboration with UK NARIC, via their unique database of individuals around the world seeking educational services, we have been able to evidence current international attitudes and perception of UK HE qualifications.

Key findings from the Perceptions of the UK’s unique Higher Education offer – views from international students are:

  • 59% of the international respondents had not heard of Accelerated Degrees
  • Once introduced to the concept, 44% said they would consider studying on an accelerated programme
  • 56% of respondents believe the government in their home country does recognise a UK one-year Master’s degree

Lifelong learning

In late 2017 the UK Government launched a consultation into the provision of accelerated degrees. There is little existing evidence to suggest that accelerated degrees would appeal to international students. Advocates of this new type of higher education provision suggest that studying for a UK degree in a 2 rather than 3-year period would appeal to a broad spectrum of students, including mature students who want to retrain and enter the workplace more quickly, and those who do not take a traditional A-level route into higher education.

Headline findings from key regions
The research highlighted potential demand for accelerated degrees from individuals in the following region/countries. Survey participants gave an above average positive response when asked if they would consider studying for a UK fast track degree:

  • Sub Saharan Africa (62.23%); Zimbabwe (73.7%), Nigeria (59.2%), Ghana (53.8%);
  • Brazil (65.5%)
  • The Philippines (58.3%)

‘The perceptions towards the UK higher education system highlighted through this research are a useful reminder that even those who would choose to study in the UK are not always certain that the final qualification will be recognised in their home country.

While recognition in the home country is only one of many factors in deciding where to study amongst international students, a greater focus on the international acceptance of UK qualifications would support increased student recruitment.’

Paul Norris, Deputy Managing Director, UK NARIC.

‘Our study has shown UK Higher Education qualifications are still held in high regard internationally. It has also revealed a significant opportunity for the sector to provide access to qualifications in response to contemporary education and employment needs. Communicating the benefits of accelerated degrees, including potential cost and time saving, whilst maintaining UK quality standards, is key’.

Elizabeth Shepherd, Director, IFF Research.

IFF’s Elizabeth Shepherd will be presenting findings from this report at its launch at the UKNARIC2018 annual conference in Westminster today.

Access the full report here