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GHK Consulting was commissioned by HEFCE and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to undertake a feasibility study for research into employer investment in higher-level learning.

The study looks at existing data on what employers currently spend on higher-level learning (assigned using the National Qualifications Framework levels) and whether that information could be improved. In undertaking their analysis the consultants trialled a qualitative research approach through an in-depth discussion with 20 employers.

The study's findings are that a large amount of information already exists on the types of learning in which employers invest, but there is very little on how much they actually spend. There is also a significant information gap on the qualification levels of the learning in which employers are making their investments.

The report suggests that a large scale survey methodology would be unlikely to improve on data already available. The National Employers Skills Survey (NESS) was found to be as robust as can be achieved through such an approach. The report uses data from the NESS together with analysis from the employer studies to make broad-brush estimates about current employer spending on higher-level skills.

The 20 case studies also highlight trends in employer investment which have implications for policy development. Most of the employers delivered much of their training in-house and none routinely collected information on the impact of their investment. They also tended to recruit the higher-level skills that they needed rather than invest in developing their existing employees. These findings are summarised in the policy position paper which is also available to download.