European Social Fund Cohort Study: wave 3

Document type
Anderson, Tracy; Tait, Clare; Lloyd, Cheryl
Date of publication
1 September 2011
Research report; 771
Employment, Education and Skills
Social welfare
Material type

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The European Social Fund Cohort Study explores the longer-term outcomes of the training and advice provided through ESF. The study covered four of the ESF priorities: Priorities 1 and 4, which have a focus on extending employment opportunities and tackling barriers to employment; and Priorities 2 and 5, which aim to develop and improve the skills of the workforce.

Wave 1 of the ESF Cohort Study took place between April and September 2009 and included interviews with 10,947 ESF and match participants. Wave 1 respondents were then approached again between January and March 2010 (Wave 2) and January and March 2011 (Wave 3), subject to consent to be recontacted. Full interviews were conducted with 7,400 respondents at Wave 2 and 2,740 respondents in Wave 3.

This report contains the findings from Wave 3 and focuses upon the longer term outcomes of ESF provision, particularly whether the outcomes observed at previous points in time have been sustained and whether any additional outcomes are evident. The report also examines the involvement of ESF and match-funded participants in training about green issues and the degree to which they are employed by organisations providing related products and services

Participants in ESF provision have reported improved employment prospects with some moving into employment since the course, evidence of progression within the workplace among those already in employment and the development of higher level skills and qualification acquisition amongst others. While qualifications gained are a permanent achievement, employment outcomes can be transitory. However, the study suggests that that majority of those in employment at the previous wave have remained in employment at Wave 3 (and, in a period of economic difficulty, this proportion may be lower than would otherwise have been). Further improvements have also been observed since Wave 2 amongst those who have been in employment since the start of the course. Similarly, among those who have not secured employment, work search activity remains at similar levels to those seen at Wave 2; and levels of motivation to look for work and confidence in finding work appear to have been sustained. These outcomes have been observed across the board including amongst those participants facing disadvantages that hinder their labour market activities. On the basis of the cohort study it appears that ESF and match–funded provision has had a positive and sustained impact upon participants in line with the targets that were set. The findings from the study do highlight some areas which could be given further consideration for future programmes with a view to improving outcomes. This includes additional efforts to engage younger participants and those ‘made to’ go on the course, additional support for participants who face certain disadvantages linked with poorer outcomes (i.e. those with disabilities or long term health problems, the long term unemployed and those with no prior qualifications), particularly provision to increase their confidence and greater work experience opportunities.

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