A recent report published by Welsh Government highlights the benefits and limitations of enhanced data utilisation to deliver careers services in Wales.

Welsh Government commissioned ADR Wales researchers to undertake a study to examine the policy and legislative context within which the national careers provider, Careers Wales operates, the utility of data holdings of Careers Wales and other organisations, and potential data sharing to support Careers Wales objectives and increase public benefit from the service.

Please note the views expressed in the report are those of the researchers and not necessarily those of Welsh Government.

Careers Wales, formed in 2013, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Welsh Government, providing all-age independent and impartial careers services in Wales. Working with partners, Careers Wales supports schools to provide careers education and services, engaging with employers and colleges, as well as providing support to Welsh Government employment programmes such as Working WalesReAct+ and European Social Fund programmes. Careers Wales’ remit and funding is provided each year by Welsh Government Ministers.

The study was carried out as part of the Welsh Government Careers Wales Data Linking Feasibility Study and used a combination of desk-based research and interviews to provide a picture of the service provider and how it can develop its use of administrative linked data.

The research, led by ADR Wales researcher Dr Katy Huxley, considered employability and skill policies in Wales. These included the Employability Plan, the Youth Engagement and Progression Framework and Young Persons Guarantee, as well as Careers Wales’ strategic objectives of identifying the data they need to contribute to wider policy interventions.

The legislative context was explored at a Welsh, UK and European level of governance to understand different influential parameters in data sharing and data access. The feasibility of linking external data sources to Careers Wales data and the development of a data intelligence hub to enhance public policy delivery and improved service provision were explored.

Six research questions were addressed:

  • What data needs are created by organisational and national policy?
  • Do, or can, the data holdings of Careers Wales and partners fulfil these needs?
  • What is the legislative context for administrative data sharing?
  • Are there legal, privacy or other issues or risks that prevent data linkage?
  • What are the benefits and risks associated with data sharing?
  • What, if any, are the feasible approaches to enhancing data utilisation and effectiveness?

The study looked at the legal pathways for data access, the data available, and the needs of Careers Wales and partners. It concluded that further investment in Careers Wales data assets and linkage would enable better utilisation of customer, and other administrative data, to monitor and improve provision, outcomes, and service evaluation.

The report suggests a number of strategies that could be pursued to support this, including the development of a data intelligence hub to assist employability support programmes within Local Authorities.

Dr Katy Huxley, Research Officer at ADR Wales, said “Our work across the ADR UK investment and at ADR Wales aims to highlight the benefits of utilising linked, anonymised administrative data. Building on that experience, this report considers use of administrative data internally within Careers Wales to enhance service provision and evaluation. These recommendations provide a wide range of interventions that could assist both evidence-based decision making within Careers Wales but also could be used more widely by partnership organisations involved in the delivery of employability support.”

The Welsh Government report was carried out by ADR Wales Skills and Employability academics Dr Katy Huxley and Rhys Davies.

ADR Wales is part of the UK wide ADR UK investment funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UKRI. It unites research expertise from Swansea University Medical School and WISERD statisticians, economists and social researchers from within Welsh Government. The ADR Wales team includes leading academics with expertise in the priority issues facing the nation, as identified in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government 2021-2026. This expertise is paired with the need within government, third sector and public bodies for timely data-driven insights to ensure that policy decisions for the people of Wales are made in the most effective and informed way.

ADR Wales has been working with Careers Wales to explore how the data it collects can be used to provide new insights as to the different circumstances and capabilities of its clients to help to inform improvements in service delivery.

Read the full report.