Developing progression and upskilling pathways for employers: a sectoral focus


This report reviews initiatives designed to create or develop upskilling pathways within different sectors to help build understanding of how to promote in-work progression for low wage workers. Initiatives either supported in-work progression for individuals already working in entry level jobs within a sector, or supported individuals to progress into new sectors, by providing the specific skills and support required.

Evidence on impacts suggests that sector-based programmes can have make a significant difference across a number of outcomes, including participation in vocational training, qualifications, employment, job tenure and earnings. Given that most of these initiatives are US-based, gauging the scale of wage change that might be achieved in the UK through sectoral programmes is difficult.

The success of these programmes suggests that making substantial investment investments to enable individuals to get the ‘right job’ may be more effective than ‘work first’ approaches followed by in-work support. Relatively few initiatives focus solely on in-work progression. The main aim of many of the initiatives reviewed was to enable individuals to gain entry to good-quality employment opportunities which provide the opportunity for future progression and career advancement.

Evidence suggests that several factors have driven the success of sector-based programmes:

  1. Partnerships and employer involvement. All the evaluations and reviews of sectoral initiatives highlight the importance of employer involvement to identify specific business needs and how best to address them within a local context. This requires bringing employers on board at an early stage; ensuring staff can effectively manage employer relationships; clear messaging; and targeting ‘high road’ employers.
  2. Occupational training. Central to upskilling low wage workers is the provision of occupational training which may or may not lead to a qualification. Effective occupational training tends to be flexible and based around needs of participants; linked to real jobs and careers; and reflective of employer needs.
  3. Other forms of support. A number of programmes include financial incentives and support, although evidence suggests that this carefully incorporated within a wider package of support to be effective. More holistic support – in the form of employability or life skills training; specialist advice to identify career goals or directions; in-programme job search and/or placement support; and post-programme support to help with job retention or job search/placement – was a feature of a number of particularly successful initiatives.