An assessment of the degree to which rural businesses access national mainstream employer skills and government business support programmes

Evidence Report

Culliney M, Pollard E, Hillage, J |   | Institute for Employment Studies | Sep 2013

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In January 2013, the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), supported by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), was commissioned by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), working in conjunction with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), to examine and assess the take-up by rural businesses of national mainstream government business and employer skills support programmes.

The purpose of the project was, firstly, to compare uptake of business support and skills provision among rural and urban businesses, and secondly, to identify options for improving take-up if evidence of disparity was found.

It aimed to meet a commitment in the government’s 2012 Rural Statement to investigate the degree to which rural businesses accessed business and skills support programmes, thereby filling a recognised evidence gap and informing the development of future policy-making by identifying business needs and effective practice.

This project contributes to the government’s strategy to foster thriving rural communities within a broader context of policy focus on rebalancing the economy; creating jobs through economic growth achieved by innovation; and expanding entrepreneurship in high-value-added sectors (HM Treasury, 2011).

The objectives of the project were to:

  • provide a robust rural/urban analysis of available data sources covering business and skills support programmes and policies
  • identify whether and how rural location affects access to skills and business support
  • identify any barriers preventing rural businesses from accessing such support
  • identify and map out the objectives of the skills and business support policies and their potential impact on the rural business population
  • analyse how (and how effectively) skills and business support programmes reach their target audiences
  • share learning from examples of successful and unsuccessful delivery.