An Exploratory Evaluation of the Next Step Service

Practice area: Economics of Education | Education and Labour Markets | Labour market economics
Client: N/A
Published: November, 2012
Keywords: impact assessment modelling quantitative analysis

The Next Step service is a nationally branded careers and skills advice service that is available free to adults in England aged 19 and over irrespective of their prior skills, qualifications and employment status. Since April 2012, Next Step has been rebranded as the National Careers Service.

We merged Next Step administrative data with information from the Individualised Learner Record and data from DWP and HMRC on benefits, employment and earnings. We then generated a treatment and counterfactual group using a Propensity Score Matching technique. Looking at the entire sample of Next Step customers, 55% of Next Step customers were in employment 12 months prior to the intervention, compared to 59% in the control group. The rate of employment increases for the control group to 63% at the time of intervention, while the employment rate for Next Step customers remains relatively constant at 55% (corresponding to a gap of 8 percentage points at the time of intervention). Post-support, the rate of employment for the control group increases further with 65% in employment six months after Next Step customers receive support. In contrast, for those Next Step customers, employment rates increased by 9 percentage points from 55% to 64% in the six months post intervention. The gap in employment rates between the treatment and control groups stood at 1 percentage point six months post-support, implying that approximately 85% of the employment gap had been erased following the receipt of support.

Adopting an equivalent approach in relation to JSA, the analysis suggests that the control group exhibited a steady downward trend in the proportion claiming JSA (from 13% twelve months before the intervention to 9% at the time of the intervention and 8% six months post-intervention). Next Step customers experienced an increase in the proportion claiming JSA up until a peak of almost 39% at the point of receiving support, which demonstrates the rapid decline in labour market outcomes prior to engaging with Next Step. After the receipt of Next Step support, the proportion of Next Step customers in receipt of JSA decreased rapidly to 27% and 21% three and six months post-support respectively. The overall gap between the treatment and control groups was greatest at the time of intervention (almost 30pp), but declined to between 12 and 13 percentage points six months following the intervention. Although the benefit dependency gap was not eliminated, nor does it return to the level that existed 12 months pre-support, from the highest point, the size of the JSA dependency gap was reduced by approximately 59% in the six months post intervention.