Scottish Employer Perspectives Survey 2019: technical report

Technical report accompanying the Scottish EPS 2019 research report providing background information on the methodology used.

Questionnaire Design

The UK EPS 2016 questionnaire (minus questions that were only relevant to England, Wales and Northern Ireland) was used as the basis for the Scottish EPS questionnaire. Following a review of the UK EPS 2016 questionnaire by the RAG, additional content was developed. The additional content was tested in the pilot stage, and retained, amended or removed accordingly.

These areas of questionnaire development are detailed below. A full list of the changes between the questionnaires used in UK EPS 2016 and the Scottish EPS is provided in Appendix A.

The full Scottish EPS questionnaire is published alongside this technical report on the Scottish Government website.

Development of new questions

This section details the new questions developed for the Scottish EPS. Not all of the new questions were carried through to the mainstage (following piloting), but are detailed here to potentially inform development of future iterations of the survey.

Monitoring of equality and diversity in recruitment practices (C5a-g)

Following question C5, at which respondents are asked about factors their establishment looks for in candidates, a series of questions about the monitoring of equality and diversity in recruitment practices were added. The purpose of these questions was to determine the extent to which employers engaged in and were aware of practices related to the promotion of equality and diversity, such as collecting monitoring information, "positive action", "blind" or "no name" recruitment, and flexible working arrangements. Following pilot testing, question C5f ('For the vacancies you've had in the last 12 months, has your establishment taken any action to try to encourage a wide range of applicants by age, disability, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation?') was removed, as respondents in the pilot seemed unwilling to answer 'no' here. Instead, C5g was amended to ask the question in a more open-ended way: 'When recruiting, how, if at all, does your establishment try to encourage a diverse range of applicants by characteristics such as age, gender, disability, race, religion or sexual orientation?'

Awareness and impact of Gender Pay Gap legislation (C10GP-GPi)

Following the section of questions on the recruitment of young people ending with question C10nwi, two questions were added to gauge the awareness of the Gender Pay Gap legislation, and to assess what impact the legislation had had on employers' recruitment practices. As the legislation was implemented in April 2017, this was the first opportunity for an EPS to cover its impact.

Recruitment of people who had undertaken a Modern Apprenticeship with another employer (C10H-J, D34B)

Three new question were added – C10H to C10J – asking about recruitment of people who had undertaken a Modern Apprenticeship (MA) with another employer and how prepared for work these recruits were. These questions were intended to act as a comparator to the preceding questions which ask about recruitment and work preparedness of education leavers from school / college / university. In the pilot, it was only possible to test C10H ('Still thinking about the last 2-3 years, has this site taken on anyone who has completed a Modern Apprenticeship with another employer?') as none of the employers answered 'yes' to this question (and the other two questions were routed off a 'yes' answer to C10H). As a result, C10H and C10J ('In what ways have they been poorly prepared?') were removed, and a slightly amended version of C10I ('Thinking of those recruits who had completed a Modern Apprenticeship, in relation to their preparedness for work would you say that they were…?') was moved to sit with other apprenticeship-related questions in the Apprentices section (question D34B).

Awareness and use of Foundation Apprenticeships (C21-21A)

Two new questions were added to the Work Experience / Inspiration section asking about awareness and use of Foundation Apprenticeships (FAs) for work placements. As FAs were rolled out from August 2016, this was the first opportunity for an EPS to cover employer engagement with them.

Awareness of and engagement with Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Regional Groups (C28-29)

Two new questions were added to the Work Experience / Inspiration section asking about awareness of Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Regional Groups, and whether employers had engaged with DYW Leads or Regional Groups regarding work placements and work experience. As the DYW Regional Groups were only fully established in June 2017, this was the first opportunity for an EPS to cover employer awareness of and engagement with them.

Interactions with DYW Leads / Regional Groups (C30)

A further question that was added following the DYW questions above, asking about interactions respondents had had with their local DYW Lead or Regional Group (if they said they have had some engagement at C29). This question was included in the pilot purely to sense check employers' answers regarding their engagement with DYW Regional Groups. Pilot answers at C30 provided reassurance that respondents had confidence in their answers at C28 and C29, and as such it was decided that C30 was no longer needed, and was removed from the mainstage questionnaire.

Whether apprentices are on a Graduate Apprenticeship programme (D22Bi)

A question was added to the Apprenticeships section to gauge the extent to which apprentices were enrolled on Graduate Apprenticeship (GA) programmes, reflecting the Scottish Government's policy goal of making GAs an embedded part of Scotland's skills landscape by 2020.

Whether partnered with external institutions to design the content of training (D39a)

A question was added to the Employer Involvement in Content and Design of Training section, to find out what organisations, if any, employers worked with to design the content of training they offered to employees and apprentices. Options included working with a school or college, working with a university, working with a different training provider, and working with a DYW Lead or Regional Group.

Pilot testing

A full pilot of the questionnaire was carried out between 15 to 18 January 2019 in order to test new questions added and assess questionnaire length. The intended average survey length for mainstage fieldwork was 20 minutes.

Overall 20 pilot interviews were completed with employers in Scotland. Interviews were conducted with employers throughout Scotland, with a reasonable spread of interviews achieved by size and sector.

The average interview length for the pilot was just over 23 minutes, thus requiring approximately 3 minutes of cuts to reduce it to the required length. While the survey was long, it flowed well and employers were for the most part comfortable with the questions being asked.

The pilot identified questions that could be removed for higher priority areas, as well as helping to refine particular questions. Appendix B documents all the details on deletions, as well as modifications and additions from the 2016 UK-wide EPS.

Question coverage in Scottish EPS and impacts on time series analysis

The final questionnaire used in mainstage fieldwork drew on findings from pilot fieldwork, and also sought to reduce survey length to an average of 20 minutes. While changes have been made to the survey, care has been taken to ensure time series analysis is still possible across a range of measures.

Table 4 shows each section used in Scottish EPS 2019, and documents whether time series comparisons with EPS 2016 are appropriate; where questions have been revised, comparisons are often still possible due to only minimal changes being made. Appendix B contains a similar table, but detailing each question.

Table 4: Sections covered in Scottish EPS questionnaire and the potential for time-series analyses

Section Questions Time series possibility
Firmographics (i) (e.g. size, sector) A1-A8 Yes
Approach to recruitment C1-C5, C6A-E Yes
Recruitment practices to increase equality and diversity C5A-G, C10GP-GPI No
Recruitment of young people C8-C10NWII Yes
Recruitment of education leavers C10A-G Yes
Work experience and inspiration C17-C29 Some
Sources of training information and advice D1-D5 Yes
Training activity D6A-D8, D36 Yes
Training to VQs D13-D17 Yes
Apprenticeships D22-D35C Some
Employer involvement in content and design D39-D41 Some
National Occupational Standards D20-D21 Yes
Firmographics (ii) (e.g. growth prospects, employment change) F1-F3 Yes

Questionnaire timings

The average overall interview length of the mainstage survey was 22 minutes, although this varied widely between different employers depending on their level of engagement with initiatives, services and activities. The minimum length was just under 10 minutes, and the maximum over 56 minutes.

As might be expected, interviews with larger establishments took longer on average given that they are more likely to have engaged with the skills system and to have used more services / initiatives. Table 5 details average interview length by size band.

Table 5: Average interview length by size band

Sizeband Average interview length (mm:ss)
2-4 18:25
5-9 21:01
10-24 22:22
25-49 24:40
50-99 25:28
100-249 28:16
250+ 30:48



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