Step Up was a pilot initiative designed and jointly funded between Trust for London and the Walcot Foundation in partnership with Learning and Work Institute (L&W) as the independent learning partner. At the time of inception, there was little concrete evidence or learning about how best to support low paid workers into better paid jobs; the initiative was designed to address this gap in learning/evidence and pilot new approaches to help low-paid workers progress their careers.
Over the full three years of delivery, Step Up providers achieved higher outcome rates than those reported in the year two evaluation. These include:
• Over the course of the pilot, almost two fifths (39%) of participants (327 individuals) secured an improvement in their employment situation, by taking on more or better work, increasing their earnings or improving their hours. This represents an improvement from the year two evaluation, which found a 33% outcome rate.
• Progression was most commonly achieved by securing a new job (64% of outcomes). On average, it took 5.4 months for participants to achieve their first employment outcome.
• The majority (65%) of participants achieved an employment outcome within 6 months. An employment outcome included a new or additional job, a promotion, improved terms and conditions, and improved working hours.
• 20% of participants increased their hourly rate by more than 10%; in the year 2 evaluation this figure was 17% of participants.
• 19% of participants increased their hourly rate to the London Living Wage or above; in the year 2 evaluation this figure was 14%.
• 20% of participants increased their weekly earnings above the London Living Wage for 36 hours per week (or 16 hours per week if a lone parent); in the year 2 evaluation this was 15%.
• The median increase in hourly wage, among those achieving an outcome, was 21% or £1.42 per hour. Hourly wage gains were highest for those who improved their contract.
• The median increase in weekly earnings was 39%, or an average of £82.50 per week. Those who took an additional job saw the highest weekly gains.
• Over one fifth (21%) of Step Up participants who were on a temporary, zero hours, or part time contract moved onto a permanent contract. This was a similar outcome rate from year two.
• Engaging low-paid workers is best supported by partnerships with organisations well embedded in local communities, with links to the target group (e.g. JCP, housing associations, local authority departments, skills providers) which can refer participants into support.
• Mapping potential referral partnerships and support services which ‘plug gaps’ prior to delivery could increase programme effectiveness from the outset.
• Aligning individual facing support with employer facing approaches could provide additional referral routes and available vacancies for participants, and fill support gaps such as work experience.
Further research found that it was important that messages to engage potential participants should:
• Use direct, jargon free and personalised language.
• Reassure participants that provision is free.
• Articulate the eligibility criteria to provide assurance provision is for ‘people like them’.
• Highlight both outcomes and a clear pathway/support offer.
• Include messaging focusing on increased earnings rather than ‘progression’.
• Focus on tangible and realistic outcomes or support offers.
• Speak generically about sectors, unless the programme is sector specific.
• Avoid false promises and language which could be viewed as patronising to participants.