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Evaluation of the Acorn project: a report to Scottish Enterprise Renfrewshire


The Acorn Project aimed to increase the uptake of learning in ‘harder-to-reach’ sectors and augment managerial knowledge and leadership skills in the Scottish workplace. The evaluation aimed to assess: whether the project has increased take-up of management development training; its effectiveness in helping participants progress towards a recognised qualification; perceptions of the project; whether this new approach generated higher levels of outcomes than previous modes of delivery; and recommendations for the future.


The methodology consisted of: a review of background materials; an analysis of management information; an email survey of all MA participants; consultations with the key stakeholders; in-depth interviews of businesses with the highest take-up of the programme; and telephone interviews of remaining businesses.


Concludes that there was limited demand for the programme amongst the sectors being targeted. Finds there is an apparent issue with progress, with over three quarters of all participants achieving fewer than 5 elements. Suggests both course delivery and structure were beneficial to employers and all elements of the course were relatively highly rated. Notes frustrations about the group development sessions. Highlights a strong bias amongst trainees that the course was mainly about a verification of existing skills.


Recommends merging the Acorn project back in to the mainstream MA programme. Suggests formally reviewing the apparent non-progress of trainees, paying the training provider by outcome not activity, clarifying whether the course provides training on new skills and verification of existing abilities, taking more care over the regular delivery of group development sessions, and clarifying at the outset the required level of commitment. Wider recommendations include: increasing e-learning delivery; ensuring employers’ needs are considered first; ensuring better links between MAs and existing SE network activity; giving the pilot schemes space to operate; and investigating whether employers are willing to pay for programmes.

Author GEN Consulting
Published Year 2009
Report Type Evaluation
  • Labour Market and Skills
    Leadership/management development