By Richard Hendra, Kathryn Ray, Sandra Vegeris, Debra Hevenstone and Maria Hudson
This report presents new findings from Britain’s Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) demonstration programme, which was launched in autumn 2003. ERA was designed to test the effectiveness of a programme to improve the labour market prospects of low-paid workers and long-term unemployed people and is one of the largest randomised social policy trials ever undertaken in Britain.
One of the key goals of ERA was to encourage human capital development by supporting and incentivising training among low-wage workers. To accomplish this, the programme provided personal adviser support and financial incentives for completing training and working full-time. This report looks specifically at the delivery, take-up, and outcomes of the training support and incentives provided through ERA. A central question is whether intensive adviser support and financial incentives encourage training beyond what would normally occur. Because training encompasses a variety of activities, this report details the kinds of training courses people took in ERA.
Finally, it is important to assess whether training leads to better labour market outcomes. Some programmes designed to increase training have failed to do so, and others have resulted in an increase in training with no corresponding effect on earnings. One hypothesis to explain these results is that the training might not have been in courses relevant to advancement. Therefore, this study will closely examine the occupational relevance of the courses taken.
This report draws on quantitative data from two waves of the ERA customer survey, administered to a sample of participants 12 months and 24 months after their date of random assignment. The qualitative data are drawn from interviews and focus groups with staff and programme participants conducted during and after ERA programme delivery.