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Qualitative evaluation of the employer investment fund phase 1

In April 2011, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills launched Phase 1 of the Employer Investment Fund, marking the start of a new employer-led approach to skills investment. EIF enabled Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) to work closely with employers to develop and co-finance relevant skills and training solutions. This report provides early evidence of the effectiveness of this new approach. Its findings will inform the UK Commission’s decisions for the future management of employer-led skills projects and will be of help to those who bid for future investments that are employer led, innovative and sustainable. In Phase 1 of the EIF programme, around £5 million of investment was awarded to support 14 projects. This included six pre-existing Women and Work projects and eight ‘innovation’ projects to build the capacity of sectors to address identified skill needs. The investment period ran from June 2011 to March 2012. The commissioning model for the EIF Phase 1 innovation projects was based on SSCs bidding competitively for investment. The bid process required employers in each sector to make a substantial commitment (a cash or in-kind contribution) to evidence active support for the proposed skills solution. This model would go on to be used (with some adaptations) in subsequent EIF rounds and in the similar Growth and Innovation Fund (GIF) programme. By the end of 2012, the UK Commission had invested £94 million across 112 EIF and GIF projects, attracting £80 million of employer investment. The qualitative evaluation of EIF Phase 1 provides an early insight into the operation of the UK Commission’s investment model. It followed projects from the later stages of EIF delivery (in January to March 2012) to around 9-12 months beyond the investment phase (with follow-up from December 2012 to March 2013). As such, it provides important insight into the sustainability of UK Commission investments and lessons on how sector bodies and their partners can effectively prepare for the transition beyond EIF or GIF investment. The research was based on four longitudinal case studies with a sample of EIF Phase 1 innovation projects, plus telephone interviews with staff in the other seven SSCs managing EIF Phase 1 projects. It also included programme-level interviews with the UK Commission and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).