research programme sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council
(ESRC). The ESRC’s work covers the whole of the UK, for the last five years
these programmes have included: Learning Society; Teaching and Learning
Programme (budget Euro 25.2 million); Future of Work; Evolution of Business
Knowledge; Advanced Institute of Management. ESRC also funds some individual
VET research projects outside these programmes, as well as research centres
(for example, the ESRC Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance
(SKOPE run by Oxford and Warwick Universities). Some government departments/agencies
sponsor VET policies and fund research on skills:
Treasury. Traditionally a finance ministry, but now with growing interest
in competitiveness issues, and a set of policy teams that ‘shadow’ the
work of other government departments. For example, the Treasury has its
own team on VET for the 14-19 age group. The Treasury determines the funding
of public sector activity and sets the performance targets for the other
government departments and agencies.
of Trade and Industry. Responsible for competitiveness issues, employee
relations and labour market regulation, and managerial skills. It has its
own skills research programme.
for Work and Pensions. Responsible for social inclusion, and the integration
of unemployed and labour force.
for Education and Skills. Traditionally the main sponsor of VET research
in England. It has established its own research centres on wider benefits
of learning, and the economics of education.
and Skills Council. Responsible for funding and planning post-compulsory
education and training (except higher education), with a major skills planning
function. Reports to DfES. Commissions much research on future skill needs,
including National Employers Skills Survey.
Improvement Agency and Learning and Skills Network (formerly Learning and
Skills Development Agency ) undertake syntheses of research and commission
work from other researchers. QIA sponsors ‘action research’ projects by
practitioners, especially within the Further Education sector.
Skills Development Agency. The body that superintends the Skills for Business
network of newly established Sector Skills Councils. The SSDA has a major
research programme, which covers issues such as a sectoral level skills
forecasting and planning, the links between skills and high performance
work organisation, and the evidence base on the returns to employers from
investment in skill acquisition.
Development Agencies and Regional Observatories/Regional Intelligence Units.
The English regions now each have their own RDA, and attached to this,
a research arm that aims to provide data and analysis to support the development
of social and economic policies within the region. A considerable volume
of this work related to skills (for more details, visit www.regionalobservatories.org.uk).
The ESRC and government agencies have been investing significant amounts
of money in planning and developing more coherent and comprehensive large-scale
data sets covering VET and a range of allied social and economic issues.
Some of these are cohort studies that allow individuals to be tracked over
time as their educational and subsequent employment histories unfold.