Introduction

    Welcome to the Wales Wide Web

    October 25th, 2007 by Dirk Stieglitz

    Wales Wide Web is Graham Attwell’s main blog. Graham Attwell is Director of the Wales based research organisation, Pontydysgu. The blog covers issues like open-source, open-content, open-standards, e-learning and Werder Bremen football team.

    You can reach Graham by email at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com

    Wales Wide Web

    Jobs of the Future

    August 22nd, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    There is a lot of speculation at the moment as to the jobs of the future. On the one hand, it is said that we are educating young people for jobs which do not yet exist; on the other hand there are dire predictions that up to of existing 55 per cent of jobs may disappear to automation in the next five years.

    If it is hard as a researcher who works with labour market data to make sense of all this, imagine what it is like for young people trying to plan a career (and if doing a degree in the UK, running up major debt).

    However, there is beginning to appear some more nuanced research on the future of jobs. Michael Chui, James Manyika, and Mehdi Miremadi have just published the initial report on a research project looking at how automation will affect future employment. The report, entitled ‘Where machines could replace humans—and where they can’t (yet)’, is based on detailed analysis of 2,000-plus work activities for more than 800 occupations. Using data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net, they have quantified both the amount of time spent on these activities across the economy of the United States and the technical feasibility of automating each of them.

    Their overall finding is that while automation will eliminate very few occupations entirely in the next decade, it will affect portions of almost all jobs to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the type of work they entail.
    automation
    Each whole occupation is made up of multiple types of activities, each with varying degrees of technical feasibility. In practice, they explain, automation will depend on more than just technical feasibility. Five factors are involved: technical feasibility, costs to automate, the relative scarcity, skills and costs of workers who might otherwise do the activity, benefits (e.g. superior performance) of automation beyond labour costs substitution and regulatory and social acceptance considerations.
    The likelihood and ease of automation depends on the types of activities organised on a continuum of less susceptible to automation to more susceptible to automation: managing others, applying expertise,  stakeholder interactions, unpredictable physical work, data collection, processing data, predictable physical work. Thus occupations like accommodation, food service and manufacturing which include a large amount of predictable physical work are likely to be automated, similarly work in finance and insurance which involves much processing of data. On the other hand jobs in construction and in agriculture which comprise predominantly unpredictable physical work are unlikely to be automated, at least at present. And there is good news for teachers: “the importance of human interaction is evident in two sectors that, so far, have a relatively low technical potential for automation: healthcare and education.”

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    The woes of Brexit

    August 17th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    erasmusI have greatly enjoyed reading Pekka Kamareinen’s series of posts on this website on the history of VETNET – the Vocational Education and Training network allied to the European educational Research Association. Vocational education and Training is not a mainstream research area – indeed one of the long running discussions is whether it should be viewed as a discipline in itself or an area for trans disciplinary or inter disciplinary research.

    Yet although Vocational Education and Training receives far less attention than research in schools and in higher education it is important. Arguably the rapid changes in the nature and organisation of the workforce and the introduction of new technologies make workforce skills and competence more important for the future. With very different systems and cultures of VET in different European countries, one key has been the ability to learn from how things are done differently elsewhere. Brexit threatens the ability of UK based researchers to be able to participate in this research in the future. True, anyone can participate in VETNET and attend the annual European Conference on Educational Research regardless of living in an EU country or not. But the stark reality is that many researchers depend on European project funding to be able to attend.

    Although the English government has announced continuing support for organisations participating in the FP 7 Research programme, there has been no corresponding announcement of the Erasmus Plus programme, which is perhaps more important for VET.

    Of course Brexit proponents had argued that withdrawal from the EU will release more national funding for research in the UK.But I fear that given all the challenges that the UK faces in organising withdrawal, educational research will be low on priority lists, and VET research probably even lower.  This bodes ill for the ability of researchers to particpate in the much needed debate on how the UK’s somewhat chaotic and underfunded VET systems can be transformed to meet the twin challenges of the changing nature of work and new technologies.

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    Apprenticeship in Spain

    August 10th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    I am very happy to announce that Pontydysgu has been awarded a small grant by the International Network on Innovative Apprenticeship (INAP) to look at apprenticeship provision in Valencia in Spain.

    The following is the summary of our application:

    The Spanish economy, still struggling from the impact of the ‘crisis’, is struggling with persistently high levels of youth unemployment and low skills levels. Unemployment is especially high for those leaving school early with no qualifications and for graduates [1].

    A series of reports have suggested that moving beyond the present school based, initial vocational training system to adopt a dual system based apprenticeship model offers benefits to the economy, to companies and to individuals [2].

    However, other research points to the difficulties in transferring models developed in one culture – such as the Dual system – to other cultures and countries. A review of research literature suggests a series of issues with implementing apprenticeship in Spain [3]. These include the weakness of trade unions at a company level (despite their institutional strength), educational polarization between vocational and higher education, resistance at company level, resistance by families and young people, co-ordination between actors varies region to region, complex interactions between national and regional levels, the government, social partners and employment organisations and, of course, the ongoing economic crisis.

    With the support of the EU Youth Guarantee and backing from the Bertelsmann Foundation, the federal government has established an experimental apprenticeship framework, with pilots designed to run in parallel to existing VET schemes [4]. However, the implementation of the programmes varies greatly in different Generalitat (Autonomous Communities), based on different cultures, different economies and different organisational and governance forms. This has rendered evaluation problematic.

    It is our hypothesis that apprenticeship programmes in Spain needs to be developed to build on existing cultural and organisational norms. Furthermore, this requires a in depth understanding of the critical factors in the perception of apprenticeship by different actors / groups and how that effects the development and implementation of apprenticeship programmes.

    The proposal of this project is to undertake research based in one Generalitat, Valencia, to explore the cultural and organisational norms and the barriers and opportunities these afford to introducing apprenticeship. Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and centre of the regional government which has responsibility for implementing VET programmes. The city’s economy is service-oriented, with nearly 84% of the working population employed in service sector occupations However, the city still maintains an important industrial base, with 5.5% of the population employed in this sector.

    At present there are 1977 apprentices, out of an estimated total of 91000 VET trainees in the Valencia region [5]. With proposals to further extend apprenticeship provision, the aim of the research is to propose practical measures which can be implemented by the new regional and city governments, linked to an understanding of existing cultural and organisational norms. However, a second aim is to explore cultural and action research based approaches to research and development in apprenticeship. These are needed particularly for countries with a limited tradition of apprenticeship (including, in Europe, most southern countries) to supplement existing comparative approaches and approaches based on the idea of transferring system to other countries.

    [1] La formación ha avanzado durante la crisis, peroel abandono escolar, los desajustes en competencias y el paro limitan el aprovechamiento del esfuerzo educativo, ESENCIALES Fundación BBVA – Ivie N.º 03/2016

    [2] Wolter, C. and  Mühlemann, S. (2015) Apprenticeship training in Spain – a cost-effective model for firms?, Bertelsmann Stiftung

    [3] CEDEFOP, (2015) Governance and financing of apprenticeship, Thessaloniki

    [4] Refer Net Spain (2014) Apprenticeship-type schemes and structured work-based learning programmes: Spain, CEDEFOP

    [5] El Mundo (2016) Educación anuncia 3.000 nuevas plazas de Formación Profesional, http://www.elmundo.es/comunidad-valenciana/2016/05/10/5731ff4b46163ffd0d8c070e.html, accessed 10 June, 2016

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    Discourses of Love and Labour

    August 8th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    Like very much this announcement in the Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) list server:

    Dr Ergin Bulut is an assistant professor at Koc University in Turkey. He will start his IAS fellowship on 1 June 2017. It will focus on the analysis of labour conditions in the video game industry. Dr Bulut comments on the importance of studying the digital game industry: “There is much hype regarding the potentials of creative economy and creative production. Young people tend to regard video game development as a dream job. Our society also preaches that young people should do what they love and be ready to work for free if they really want to have a job in the video game industry or other creative industries. An inquiry of the game industry enables us to understand both the pleasures and pains of game development and interrogate the politics of this ‘dream job’ discourse”.

    It seems every event about start up businesses I go to focuses on computers and Information Technology as the golden answer for young people and work opportunities in the future. I don’t have the figures to hand but I read in an EU report that the average (mean, I think) wage for those developing mobile apps in the UK is something like £12,000 a year and it is little more in most EU countries.

    There seems a fairly wide disjunction between young people’s perceptions and the reality of opportunities and employment in different jobs.About five years ago I ran a focus group in a careers centre in Kent in England. I asked the young people in the panel how they found out about possible careers. They looked at me as if I was stupid – its obvious sir, they said. We look it up on Google. Research suggests most people rarely go beyond the first page of listings on any Google search. And then, as now, queries about how much pay you can hope to make frequently push sites to the top which are merely trying to gather data and give wildly improbable results based on very little data. It was this experience which led us to become involved in the UKCES LMI for All project which seeks to provide access to a range of quality labour Market Information and can be used to develop a variety of different applications. But good though LMI for All is research like that outlined above in a range of different occupations would be invaluable in helping to understand why young (and not so young) people choose their careers. (And I love the title!).

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    Barcamp at Association of Medical Education in Europe conference

    August 1st, 2016 by Graham Attwell


    At the end of August I am going to the Association of Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) conference in Barcelona. Although I work more in the construction sector, the Learning Layers project is working to develop technology to support informal learning in two sectors, construction and healthcare. I’ll be joining the Layers team from healthcare at the conference, where we are organising a barcamp as well as an exhibition stand. On the stand we will be presenting a number of apps developed and trialled in the healthcare sector in the UK, including a ‘portfolio’ or evidence building app, Bits and Pieces, and Confer, a communication platform for collaborative work in solving problems and developing policies and procedures. And we will be showing the context aware flexibility of the Learning Toolbox app, originally developed for the construction sector, with a special stack of miniapps developed specifically for AMEE.

    AMEE is a big conference, with over 3000 delegates attending annually. Although still hosting traditional paper presentations it is increasingly branching out to support a range of different presentation formats. And I think I am right in saying this is the first barcamp staged at AMEE. Having long been keen on more unconferencing events, it is good to see the larger and more formal conferences experimenting with such ideas. One of our problems is to explain to delegates just what a barcamp is. for that reason, I have hacked together the video above. Its a nice example of reuse of open educational resources. The original German language video was made by the University of Graz to report on a barcamp in Austria they had organised. With their permission I have added a new introduction and ending to the video and English language translation and subtitles.

    If you would like to know more about our activities at AIMEE drop me a line. And for those interested here is the ‘rules’ we have written for the barcamp:

    1st Rule: You do talk about BarCamp.

    2nd Rule: You do blog about BarCamp.

    3rd Rule: If you want to present, you must write your topic and name in a presentation slot.

    4th Rule: Only three word intros.

    5th Rule: As many presentations at a time as facilities allow for.

    6th Rule: No pre-scheduled presentations, no tourists (either make a contribution or move on, you should move groups in order to participate).

    7th Rule: Presentations will go on as long as they have to or until they run into another presentation slot.

    8th Rule: If this is your first time at BarCamp, you HAVE to present. (Ok, you don’t really HAVE to, but try to find someone to present with, or at least ask questions and be an interactive participant.

     

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    Learning Analytics for Vocational Education and Training

    July 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    I have just spent an hour or so on a periodic search for research and development about Workplace Learning Analytics and the use of Learning Analytics in the public sector. As usual the results are pretty thin – although I think the slowly growing interest in the links between learning design and Learning Analytics may come in handy in the future.

    The one thing which did interest me was a report of a workshop organised by Jisc with Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce “to explore significant opportunities for improving access to data, and analytical capacity, in the face of the significant changes that are taking place across further education and training, skills commissioning and apprenticeship provision and funding.”

    Of course, some of this is very UK specific in terms of the commissioning and funding models and are focused particularly at Further Education institutions. But some of the approaches  would appear more transferable for work based learning in general.

    As part of the Further Education initiative, Jisc have been developing a series of user stories. The breadth and depth of the stories were extended at the workshop. Paul Bailey from the Jisc Learning Analytics project explains: “The user stories that were prioritised were around using analytics to

    • help learners to improve retention, achievement of grades and make informed decisions regarding their next destinations
    • improve the quality of learning and teaching, including looking at the curriculum design and use of rich content in online learning
    • improve college support processes to improve retention and provide effective careers service to support progression
    • understand the employer demand to better plan curriculum and recruitment
    • track finance and quality to remain competitive.”

    In general these priorities apply across the initial vocational and education training sector (particularly for apprenticeships). However they don’t really work for public sector organisations which are largely focused on continuing training and professional development and which have different institutional and organisations aims and purposes than vocational colleges. But I like the story telling approach which could be a good way of exploring the potential of Learning Analytics in these organisations.

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