This report presents the results of a detailed review of evidence and policy relating to the factors that influence the engagement of the individual in skills development. It incorporates a broad range of formal and informal learning activities, delivered in a range of institutional settings and through different media, including work-based, classroom based, distance learning and community-based learning. The review is deliberately broad in its focus, drawing on evidence and policy relating to people in different positions within the labour market – in or out of work, new entrants into employment, younger and older workers, people with and without qualifications and/or with higher and lower skills. However, a key focus for the research was the barriers and factors affecting access to skills development opportunities among lower skilled and lower qualified people. The review was undertaken by WM Enterprise and the Employment Research Institute, Edinburgh Napier University for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UK Commission).
The evidence review comprised an overview of the available statistical data for the UK and – where available – constituent countries, and a review of studies that have examined the factors that appear to influence the individual’s decision as to whether to undertake skills development activities. Building on this evidence review, the research team brought together the findings of studies that have evaluated the impact on individual participation in skills development of a range of policies that have been implemented in the UK and/or constituent countries from 1998 onwards. A limited international policy review was also undertaken, focused on six countries identified in consultation with expert commentators.