The instrument was introduced in England in 2011, and Scotland in 2012.

Fully operational


Policy area

The instrument has been designed to help unemployed benefit claimants gain the relevant skills and work experience required to work in a specific sector, to give claimants the guarantee of a job interview in a specific vacancy, and also allow employers to fill existing vacancies with suitable applicants. It targets 19-24 year-old claimants and aims to get them into employment.

Policy goal

SBWA are designed to help unemployed benefit claimants enter the labour market, stay in employment, and reduce the time spent claiming the unemployment benefit (JSA). The instrument targets sectors with high volumes of current local vacancies, and has been designed to help employers meet their recruitment and skills needs, whilst also assisting benefit claimants to enter the labour market. This goal is met through the provision of training and work experience, as well as through linking job-seekers to locally available vacancies.

Part of broader programme, yet with explicit focus

The instrument works with Jobcentre Plus to address skills gaps and target sectors with specific needs.

Administrative level
Main responsible body

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)


Jobcenter Plus refers participants to the programme, covers travel and childcare costs for participants, and supports employers who are unable to provide training themselves by enabling them to join together with other employers in a consortium approach. Jobcentre Plus also works in partnership with Skills Funding Agency (England) and Skills Development Scotland (Scotland) to deliver the programme. The DWP’s National Employer and Partnership Team also negotiates with national employers to secure suitable job vacancies.


The Jobcentre Plus administrative costs are taken from the DWP’s budget. In England, sector-based work academy training is fully funded through the Skills Funding Agency and delivered by further education colleges and training providers. The training enables participants to undertake units on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF). In Scotland, sector-based work academy training is fully funded through Skills Development Scotland or other partner organisations, and delivered by further education colleges and training providers. No exact funds are given.

Intended beneficiaries

The intended beneficiaries are unemployed benefit claimants in England and Scotland. The programme is designed to support claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Universal Credit (all work-related requirements group) or Employment and Support Allowance (Work-Related Activity Group) (ESA(WRAG)), aged 18 years or over. From April 2014, sector-based work academies were also opened to lone parents aged 18 to 24 years who are receiving Income Support (IS) solely on the basis of being a single parent (and whose youngest child is aged 4). All ages are eligible to participate in sector-based work academies, although the performance of 18 to 24 year old participants is of particular focus and is measured against the Government’s public commitments on tackling youth unemployment. Participants benefit by receiving relevant employment training and work experience, as well as the guarantee of a job interview in a specific vacancy to help them re-enter the labour market. Employers and businesses are also intended to benefit as the instrument is flexible, and can be tailored to meet recruitment needs. Staff can be recruited with the right training and skills from the outset, developed through fully-funded pre-employment training. The instrument also reduces the risks within the overall process of recruiting new employees, and gives an opportunity for positive publicity to show how businesses are working together to meet their social responsibilities.


Use of labour market intelligence

There is no fixed process in place as the programme has a flexible design, but the DWP’s National Employer and Partnership Team can negotiate with national employers to secure suitable job vacancies as part of the process. Opportunities may also arise via a direct approach from local employers, colleges, training providers or local business partnerships who have heard of the scheme. Jobcentres engage with employers and training providers early in the process to ensure they are able to offer suitable training, work experience and guaranteed job interviews, and that there are vacancies for participants to apply for. These vacancies can be for jobs or apprenticeships. Jobcentres offer a co-ordinator or single point of contact for training providers, and host employers once the programme is underway.

Financial schemes

Participants in the scheme can remain on benefits throughout the period of the sector-based work academy. Jobcentre Plus pays any travel and childcare costs, whilst the participants are on the work experience placement. There is no direct cost to an employer for sector-based academies, as the costs are covered by government funding.

Frequency of updates

The content of the instrument is updated on a case-by-case basis, as the programme is flexible and tailored to the specific needs of the employer/sector.


The work experience placement has been made voluntary under the programme. Previously, from the introduction of the policy until March 2012 the work experience element was mandatory for JSA claimants. The rationale for this change was that benefit claimants who voluntarily opt into a sector-based work academy placement are more likely to be more motivated job seekers on average than those who do not.


There were no named barriers.

Success factors

Targeted training and the involvement of employers in the training and work experience process enabled participants to gain the relevant skills for specific sectors, and also to demonstrate their capabilities. Additionally, in guaranteeing a job interview, the instrument also removes other barriers faced by participants, such as lack of confidence.


For the 2016 impact assessment report, the progress of the instrument was measured by comparing individuals from two cohorts (one from 2011 and one from 2012), and then tracking them for between 18 months and two years following their start date to monitor time spent in the following outcomes:
1. Claiming benefit and not in employment
2. Claiming benefit and in employment
3. In employment and not claiming benefit
4. Neither claiming benefit nor in employment

Very innovative

The policy has a flexible structure that can be adapted to meet the needs of the employers/businesses involved. Additionally, the programme is made up of three core elements for participants: pre-employment training – specific to the needs of the chosen business sector, work experience placement, and a guaranteed job interview for participants. The three elements can be run in any order as long as the guaranteed job interview does not take place before the pre-employment training. These three aspects combat skills-shortages, skills gaps and barriers to accessing the workforce, which also contributes to the instrument's success for both employers and job-seekers.


Evidence of effectiveness

From the 2016 impact assessment evaluation report, it was found that sector-based work academies reduced the time 19-24 year-old JSA claimants subsequently spent on benefits, and increased the time they spent in employment. The more positive effects of moving participants off benefits and into work were found, as opposed to moving off benefits and into non-work destinations, which may be less sustainable. The results also suggested that the positive impact of participation extended beyond the observed 18-month tracking period.
From the 2016 impact assessment, the employment impact was greater for participants of all three elements of the programme (pre-employment training, specific to the needs of the chosen business sector; work experience placement; and a guaranteed job interview for participant, where the work experience element is optional in some cases). According to the report, for the 2012/13 cohort, the individuals who had completed all three elements spent on average 64 more days in employment and not in receipt of benefits, relative to the matched comparison group during the year and a half after a placement start. Additionally, where the sector-based work academy included a work placement, 42% of participants were offered a job upon completion. Nine in ten job offers were accepted. Benefits have exceeded expectations, as they continued past the tracking period and the instrument was proven to have long-term impacts. There were no additional costs, and a cost-benefit analysis suggested that the programme was efficient.

Engagement of stakeholders

Jobcentre Plus support is in place to ensure that each participant (employer/programme attendee) provides and receives the appropriate training. Advisors are also in place throughout each academy's implementation. Additionally, The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP’s) National Employer and Partnership Team use their contact with national employers to secure suitable job vacancies under the instrument. Local employers, colleges, training providers or local business partnerships are also informed of the programme and able to directly approach the DWP.

Not easily transferable

The programme is centred around support provided by Jobcentre Plus, therefore it would be difficult for it to be transferred to a country that does not have a similar service/funding stream in place.


Funding continues and there are no plans to stop the offer given with the programme.