Joana Lopes, Pauline Wade, Thomas Spielhofer, John Kimber
01 June 2005
NFER was commissioned by Deloitte/Business in the Community (BITC) to carry out an evaluation of the e-programme between May 2003 and April 2005. e-skills4industry is a business-led initiative launched in September 2001 to increase employability levels among trainees who are from disadvantaged communities with high levels of adult unemployment. As a result of the successful pilot in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the project was rolled out on a national level across nine colleges of further education, commencing in September 2003.
The course aims to provide structured information technology (IT) training and work experience to 16-18 year-olds. It was specifically designed for trainees who have decided to follow a non-academic route, and who are at risk of unemployment or under-employment. It aims to provide them with the skills, qualifications and experience that are needed to secure entry-level jobs in IT. The trainees work towards achieving a level 2 national vocational qualification (NVQ) during their job placement which, together with their college work, is expected to lead to the award of an apprenticeship in IT.
The research report charts the progress of around 100 trainees involved in the programme between September 2003 and April 2005. It also presents the views of more than 30 employers providing job placements and 20 college tutors and senior managers.
Conclusions and recommendations
- College staff involved in the programme need to be allocated sufficient time to develop and sustain links with employers. The evaluation suggests that it may be advisable to have one designated member
- Colleges need to adopt teaching styles that are responsive to the previous experiences of trainees and their general dislike of too much writing and traditional classroom-based approaches. Key skills, in particular, need to be delivered in a more integrated way so that trainees can learn by doing and can see the relevance to the workplace.
- Colleges need to consider ways in which they can attract more female trainees onto their courses and what they can do to keep them involved.
About the study
The evaluation of the e-skills4industry programme was based around a longitudinal/follow-up study of all trainees on the course. The longitudinal study consisted of four rounds of interviews at four distinct stages of the programme, as follows:
- at the start of the programme (September/October 2003)
- after the end of the first college term (January/February 2004)
- towards the end of the college programme (May/June 2004)
- towards the end of the job placement (January/February 2005).
As part of the first round, 106 trainees were interviewed. The NFER research team was able to re-interview 91 trainees as part of the second round of interviews and 83 at the end of the college programme. The final round of interviews involved 62 trainees. Overall, 44 trainees were interviewed on each of the four visits, while most others were spoken to on three occasions.
- Colleges had successfully recruited the target group for the programme in terms of trainees’ age and characteristics. However, ten per cent of trainees interviewed exceeded the target of having more than three GCSEs at A*-C. Several of these left the course early, moving onto other, higher level courses.
- While almost all trainees were satisfied with the programme overall, just over two-thirds said they were satisfied with the college course. They particularly liked the practical aspects of learning about computers and the employability skills element of the course.
- Trainees were least positive about the more theoretical aspects of the course, such as key skills, about having to sit external exams, and about the lack of support and guidance for completing the NVQ.
- The two-week work placements were seen to be particularly successful by trainees if they combined an initial period of work shadowing followed by some opportunities for hands-on work.
- Almost all trainees were satisfied with their six-month job placement experience and felt that it had enabled them to extend the skills and knowledge developed as part of the college course. Both trainees and employers thought the college course should have put more emphasis on developing trainees’ customer service and telephone skills.
- Trainees were generally positive about the experience of doing the NVQ, although almost a third had found it difficult to complete it while working at the same time.
- Most job placement supervisors saw the NVQ as a valuable part of the course and none saw the qualification as burdensome. Employers reported that they would have liked more information on the NVQ before the job placement started.
- Most trainees had workplace mentors and felt they had benefited from their support. However, contrary to the guidelines provided to employers, in many cases trainees’ supervisors or team leaders acted as their mentors.
- Most supervisors were able to identify gains to their own organisation of having taken on a trainee and almost all said they would be willing to be involved in the programme in the future. All but one supervisor said they would recommend the programme to other employers.
- While almost two-thirds of supervisors interviewed had expected to offer a job at the end of the placement, only just over half had actually done so. The main reasons for not offering a job included a company freeze on recruitment and lack of satisfaction with the performance of the trainee.
- More than half of those who had completed a six-month job placement (38 trainees) had continued working in IT after their placement, and five in six trainees intended to pursue a career in IT.
- By the end of April 2005, only 12 of the trainees had attained an apprenticeship, although many more had achieved one or two of its components. About half of the trainees valued achieving an apprenticeship because they saw it as an additional qualification that would demonstrate their skills and knowledge.
- Around half of the trainees who were accepted onto the e-skills4industry course left early. Trainee retention was particularly poor for female trainees and those with three or more GCSEs at A*-C, partly due to some moving on to other, higher level, courses.
- The main reported benefits to colleges of delivering the programme included establishing links with employers and aiding the professional development of course tutors.