Improving business engagement in employability programmes


This project is funded by Leeds University Business School’s Impact Leadership Award.

The purpose of most employability and skills programmes is to enable participants to gain employment. Yet the truth is that low numbers of employers consistently engage with them. 

Since 2011, a sustained body of research in the UK and Denmark led by Dr Jo Ingold at Leeds has focused on the engagement of employers in employability and skills programmes. The studies revealed that:

  • The multitude of programmes, contracts and specialist services are difficult for employers to navigate. There are too many confusing ‘products’ (e.g. apprenticeships, traineeships, work placements, different programmes aimed at niche demographic groups) but this confusing landscape is overlooked by current policy and programme design
  • The competitive landscape of programmes reduces cooperation between providers, undermining services for both programme participants and employers
  • There are no minimum standards of service for employers and they find a range of practices, products and services which range in quality and effectiveness.

Our exciting new project seeks to improve business engagement with employability and skills programmes. Leeds University Business School is partnering with the trade body, the Employment-Related Services Association (ERSA) to:

  • Engage and influence commissioners to improve business involvement in contract design
  • Support providers to better engage businesses to improve performance
  • Engage employers to enhance their understanding of the market and how to adopt practices best suited to hiring and retaining talent from employability and skills programmes.

The project aims to directly impact on commissioners, providers and businesses through:

  • stakeholder engagement
  • the development of ‘how to’ guides and process maps
  • training in person and via webinars to support these resources.

The end-product for commissioners and providers will be a scalable template for engaging with labour markets, market mapping, market engagement, how to consult with businesses in order to formulate services and programmes.

We anticipate facilitating mini-projects in a small number of pioneer geographies, but we want to involve anyone who has an interest in employer engagement at a national, regional or local level.  So, we want you to be involved, share your expertise and be part of what we hope will be an impactful piece of work for our sector.  We are particularly aware that there are already good practices out there that we want to hear about.

We want you to be involved! Register your interest in the project. There are also five brief questions for you to respond to, which will provide an accurate and contemporary snapshot of employer engagement within our industry. Be part of revolutionising the business end of employability delivery. 


Publications and outputs

Related project: Employer engagement in active labour market programmes


ERSA and Leeds University Business School announce new project for improved employer engagement

Dr Jo Ingold to speak at Institute for Employability Professionals Summit, Royal Society of Arts, London, Thursday 5 March 2020