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

    The value of vocational qualifications

    August 27th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

     NFER have been commissioned by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) to carry out a small-scale rapid literature review of the value of vocational qualifications offered in the UK by JCQ. The review was carried out February-April 2015 and sought to answer the following questions: (1) How is the value of vocational qualifications defined? (2) What is the reported value of vocational qualifications (e.g. benefits for the individual learner, business, and the economy)? (3) Are there gaps in the research on the value of vocational qualifications, and if so, what further information would be useful to have for policy and practice?

    Following a systematic search of databases and websites, the project team scrutinised 73 texts making an independent ‘best evidence’ selection of 16 to be reviewed, based on relevance to the research questions and the quality of the evidence. The reviewed texts focused on young people aged 14-25 and were published in English in the United Kingdom from the year 2009.

    Key Findings:

    The literature review identified benefits for all stakeholders in young people taking vocational qualifications:

    • Learners: increased likelihood of being in employment and a significant wage return for all levels and most types of vocational qualifications. Increased access to higher education for the poorest learners.
    • Businesses: increased productivity and a more skilled workforce.
    • Economy/Exchequer: a positive financial return for most qualifications, with particularly high returns associated with Level 3. A reduction in benefit dependency and increase in income tax.

    The full report can be downloaded here.

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    Entering the post Facebook age

    August 26th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

    I have written before about how I expect the future of social networking to eveolve towards less public and more niche social networking applications and channels. In that respect I like a recent article “How to Escape the Public Internet” in New Republic.

    In the article draws attention to the increasing take up of Slack, an app we have been using for communication in some of our projects.

    Ostensibly a powerful work chat app where teams can communicate with each other in channels of various topics (in the manner of its public predecessor IRC), Slack has also developed both a rabid userbase and a culture of its own as people turn its groups into communities. Its users aren’t just corporate teams, either. They’re freelancers, groups of friends, and even gaming clans. Though they use it differently, all have turned to the app for the same reason: to take their conversations from public to private.

    Slack and other private modes of communication, says Alang, “offers a space hidden from the public internet. What it thus represents is a retreat into the private—or rather, a return to it.” I don’t think this is the only reason for the rise in popularity of private channels (and the return of curated newsletters). Although there have been several attempts to develop alternatives to Facebook they have all tended to look like Facebook clones. Slack is pretty, works on all platforms and is free of the distracting advertising and looks and feels nothing like Facebook.  More importantly Slack allows communication with a more limited community of ‘real’ colleagues and ‘friends’. And perhaps most important of all, as in the example Alang provides of a channel for writers and academics, Slack channels seem to be more focused on what you want to discuss, with people with the same interests. Slack for education – there’s a thought!

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    Short films about working people

    August 24th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

    It is a shame notice to this is so short (6 September deadline) or I would have tried to do something. And anyway I guess this competition is really geared towards professionals but it would be cool to have a more crowd sourced (amateur) version. But in case anyone  has already produced something here are the details (via LabourStart).

    The third London Labour Film Festival will screen a selection of labour-related shorts throughout the film festival which takes place next month.

    These short films will be screened between the feature length films.

    We would like to invite you to be part of this.

    We are asking people to submit short films to the festival.

    The films and videos submitted can be made in the UK or anywhere in the world.

    The films will be labour-related, they can be about any and every aspect of work, as well as those issues affecting unionised workers and those not represented by unions.

    The selected (winners) will be chosen by a global panel of judges and shown as part of the festival.

    The shorts selection competition is open to anybody. The purpose of the contest is to discover the hard work of filmmakers whose voices have yet to be heard.

    Click here for full details and an entry form.

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    Graduate jobs, skills and productivity in the UK?

    August 19th, 2015 by Graham Attwell
    There has been much commenting in the press today over a report from from the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which claims that 58% of UK university-leavers are entering jobs that do not require a degree, with graduate over-qualification now at “saturation point”.
    The Guardian says reports that “the mismatch between the number of university leavers and the jobs appropriate to their skills has left the UK with more than half of its graduates in non-graduate jobs, one of the highest rates in Europe,
    The Huffington Post quotes Ben Wilmott, CIPD’s head of public policy, as blaming New Labour’s 1999 landmark pledge to send 50% of young people to university, and  the Government’s failure to create high-skill jobs.
    Wilmot called for better careers advice, a renewed emphasis on driving up apprenticeship numbers and a re-think of the disparity between further and higher education funding. “We had the assumption that increasing the conveyer belt of graduates will allow the UK to transition into a higher-skilled economy, but research shows that if you compare graduates and non-graduates who are doing the same or a similar job, skill requirement is not enhanced by the presence of a graduate”, he said.
    The report raises a series of issues. Firstly just what is a graduate job. The definition appears to stem from Reasearch by the Institute for Employment Research at warwick Univeristy which led to the division of jobs in the Standard Ocuaptional Classification system used int he Uk into 5 different categories.
    The Prospects web site summarises them as follows:
    1. Traditional graduate occupations
    These are the established professions for which a degree has historically been required.
    Solicitors, research scientists, architects and medical practitioners are all examples. They typically require the post-holder to be an expert in a very specific area.
    2. Modern graduate occupations
    The expansion of higher education in the 1960s, and the development of new professional fields in areas such as IT, have resulted in the development of a range of newer professions requiring graduate-level qualifications.
    Software programmers, journalists, primary school teachers and chief executives are all examples of modern graduate occupations. They require the post-holders to be ‘experts’, but also often to have more strategic or interactive responsibility than a traditional graduate job.
    3. New graduate occupations
    These are areas of employment that are often rapidly expanding in today’s labour market. The nature of these jobs has changed relatively recently to mean that the most accepted route into them is via a graduate-level qualification.
    Marketing, management accountancy, therapists and many forms of engineer are examples of new graduate occupations. They typically require a higher level of strategic responsibility or of ability to interact with others, and less need for them to be an expert in a topic.
    4. Niche graduate occupations
    This area is expanding. Many occupations do not require graduate-level qualifications, but contain within them specialist niches that do require degrees to enter.
    Nursing, retail managers, specialist electrical engineers and graphic designers all fall into this category. Often they require a combination of skills, such as managerial and expert skills, but equally often the need is for an ‘all-rounder’ with a range of abilities.
    5. Non-graduate occupations
    All jobs that do not fall into the previous four categories are considered ‘non-graduate occupations’.
    Obviously there are questions as to whether objectively a university degree is a necessary or best qualification to be say a physiotherapist or a marketing manager. And does university really teach students to take on “strategic or interactive responsibility”?
    Is the expansion in university education in the UK driven by  the need for graduates in employment or is the high number of graduates leading to qualification inflation?
    At a more macro level it appears that as CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese says there was an “assumption that we will transition to a more productive, higher-value, higher-skilled economy just by increasing the conveyor belt of graduates”, a policy he believes to be  flawed. The UK government policy of labour market deregulation may have been successful in creating jobs, but many of these are low paid and part time. Productivity in the UK is stubbornly low.
    In a paper published on the Social Europe web site entitled “How ‘structural reforms’ oflabour markets harm innovation“, Alfred Kleinknecht, Professor of Economics of Innovation at  Delft University of Technology argues that easier hire and fire and higher labour turnover will, in various ways, damage learning
    and knowledge management in the ‘creative accumulation’ innovation model that is based on accumulation of firm-specific knowledge. Besides, lower wage cost pressure will lead to an ageing capital stock, owing to a slow adoption of labour-saving technologies.”
    With low productivity and a slow adoption of new technologies, there is simply limited demand for graduate employment. But at the same time university graduation has become almost a rite of passage in the UK. Much has been made of the higher wages that graduates earn during their careers. This is supposed to more that offset the now very substantial university fees in the UK and the resultant high levels of debt on graduating. But of course this represents a historical figure and it is easy to see that such premiums may no longer apply in the future, especially as companies like Ernst and Young announce they will remove a degree from the job recruitment requirements. And despite the rhetoric of developing and promoting apprenticeship routes to skilled work, the reality remains that many of the so called apprenticeships in the UK remain on the low skilled spectrum of employment. And funding cutbacks are particular savage in the Further education (vocational college) sector.
    All in all it is hard to see any joined up policy here, apart from a blind belief in austerity and that the markets will sort it out. But it does point to the need for integrated policy making linking education, labour market and innovation policies. That seems to have been absent in any recent Government, Labour, Coalition or Conservative.

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    Open Education and Libraries

    August 19th, 2015 by Graham Attwell
    The NMC, the University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Chur, the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB), Hannover, and ETH-Bibliothek Zürich have jointly released the NMC Horizon Report  2015 Library Edition. They identify six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in technology  across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, providing, they say, a valuable guide for strategic technology planning  for library leaders and staff.
    “The trends identified by the expert panel indicate that libraries are doing a better job of making their content more accessible and adapting library spaces to meet the needs of the contemporary, connected academic community,” says Rudolf Mumenthaler, Professor of Library Science at HTW Chur and co-principal investigator of the report.
    Interestingly, amongst other trends, the report identifies “Makerspaces” and “Online Learning” as technologies and digital strategies that are expected to enter mainstream use in the first horizon of one year or less. “Information Visualization” along with “Semantic Web and Linked Data” are seen in the second horizon of two to three years; “Location Intelligence” as well as “Machine Learning” are seen emerging in the third horizon of four to five years.
    The focus of the NMC report, which sees libraries as increasingly important toteaching, learning, and creative inquiry, is academic and research libraries.
    Yet with the rising recognition of the importance of access to knowledge and data and with renewed interest in ideas such at the smart city, it would appear possible that the same themes might be important for libraries open to the public, outside the more closed academic sphere. Indeed with the growth of Open Education and MOOCs libraries could be seen as playing a key role in supporting more open forms of learning. Therefore it is ironic that even whilst organisations like the European Commission champion the slogan of Open Education, the policy of austerity is leading to drastic cutbacks in library provision in many country including the UK, leading to closures of libraries, cutbacks ins staffing and freezes in new stock acquisition. And libraries, along with community and adult education are regarded as something the state should no longer provide, something provided by voluntary organisations or not at all. And whereas m,mainstream school and university education can be prepared for the market as a prelude to full privatisation, few corporate bodies see a profit to be made from libraries.

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    Predicting mid and long term skills needs in the UK

    June 24th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

    Labour Market Information (LMI)  is not perhaps the most popular subject to talk about. But with the advent of open and linked data, LMI  is increasingly being open up to wider audiences and has considerable potential for helping people choose and plan future careers and plan education programmes, as well as for use in research, exploring future skills needs and for social and economic planning.

    This is a video version of a presentation by Graham Attwell at the Slovenian ZRSZ Analytical Office conference on “Short-term Skills Anticipations and Mismatch in the Labour Market. Graham Attwell examines ongoing work on mid and long term skills anticipation in the UK. He will bases on work being undertaken by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and the European EmployID project looking, in the mid term, at future skills needs and in the longer term at the future of work. He explains the motivation for undertaking these studies and their potential uses. He also explains briefly the data sources and statistical background and barriers to the wok on skills projections, whilst emphasising that they are not the only possible futures and can best serve as a a benchmark for debate and reflection that can be used to inform policy development and other choices and decisions. He goes on to look at how open and linked data is opening up more academic research to wider user groups, and presents the work of the UKCES LMI for All project, which has developed an open API allowing the development of applications for different user groups concerned with future jobs and future skills. Finally he briefly discusses the policy implications of this work and the choices and influence of policymakers in influencing different futures.

     

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