Projects aimed at helping people into work should be subjected to “robust, independent evaluation”, a committee of MSPs has told the Scottish
Members of Holyrood’s finance committee said they were concerned about the lack of evaluation of skills and employment initiatives.
The MSPs also urged ministers to consider if the number of training and employment programmes should be cut, giving the remaining schemes “greater flexibility and efficiency”.
They suggested that businesses should be involved in the design of such projects from the start, to help ensure that the schemes meet the needs of the private sector.
The committee has been looking at the issue of improving employability in the wake of rising unemployment figures which showed that in July to September this year, an estimated 218,000 people were unemployed, compared with just 128,000 during the same period in 2008.
There were 101,000 16 to 24-year-olds out of work, up from 56,000 in July to September 2008.
The committee found there were a “significant number of different initiatives, programmes and strategies” in Scotland aimed at helping people into work, and urged the government to “consider whether a fewer number of programmes encompassing greater flexibility and efficiency might be the way forward”.
They went on: “There needs to be robust, independent evaluation of these initiatives to establish the extent to which they support individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds into sustainable employment.”
They stressed this work should look at the “nature and quality of the employment obtained”.
The MSPs argued it was “crucial” that investment to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds was reflected in future spending.
While they conceded that “resources are finite, particularly in the current economic climate”, the MSPs argued this made it “even more crucial” that employment programmes can be shown to deliver value for money.
A “key message” from the private sector was that businesses should be involved in designing employment schemes.
The committee said that “too often, employers are approached once the programme and initiative has been developed, with the result that they might not be tailored to meet their needs”.
Committee convener Kenneth Gibson stated: “It is vital we tackle this enduring problem of employability for those furthest from the job market. It will benefit Scotland’s public finances, its long-term economic growth and the individuals themselves.”