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

    Transferable skills and the future of work

    April 9th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    There continues to be a flurry of newspaper articles and studies of teh effect of automation and Artificial Intelligence on employment and jobs. There are different predictions about the scale of the change and particularly about the numbers of jobs which are at risk. One cause of the difference is disagreements about how many new jobs will be created, another is the speed of change. This may in part depend on whether employers choose to invest in new technologies: in teh UK productivity has remained persistently low, probably due to low wage rates.

    What we do know is that organisations will need to cope with many of the changes associated with changes in the skill mix required of their employees  through learning through challenging work, training and continuing professional development etc. We also know that the changes mean it is difficult to imagine exactly how the labour market will look in say ten years but understanding the labour market can help people make sense of the context in which they are working or are seeking to work

    At the same time we do not know the exact skill demands associated with unforeseen changes in the labour market, but we do know that new technical skills will be required, individuals and firms may need to specialise more to compete in global markets, and that demand will grow for ‘soft skills’ which are very difficult to automate, including complex social skills, cultural and contextual understanding, critical thinking, etc.

    Yet this debate is not new. In the 1990s there were similar debates around teh move towards the ‘knowledge society’. At that time it was being predicted that low skilled work was set to rapidly decline, a prediction that pre-dated the rapid expansion in low skilled (or at any rate low paid) employment in the service sector. the answer at that time was seen to be promoting transversal skills and competences, variously called core skills, core competences etc. These emhpasised teh important of literacy and numeracy as well as communication skills and Information Technology. The problem was that such skills and competences were, in general abstracted from the curriculum as stand aone areas of learning, rather than being integrated within occupational learning. Of course, the other tendency n many Euroepan countries was to increase the number of young people going to university, at the expense of vocational educati0on and training.

    What was needed then as now was to develop technical skills coupled with soft skills. Mastery of a technical skill is itself be a transferable skill whereby other technical skills can be developed more quickly as they are required . Developing latest industry-integrated technical skills is easiers if an underpinning technical knowledge base has been developed through more traditional educational provision. Retraining while in-work is very much easier than getting redundant people back into work.

    Germany by Gerald Heidegger and Felix Rauner who looked at occupational profiles. Occupational profiles are in effect groups of competencies based on individual occupations. In Germany there are over 360 officially recognised occupations.

    As long ago as 1996, Gerald Heidegger and Felix Rauner from the University of Bremen were commissioned by the Government of Rhineland Westphalia to write a Gutachten (policy advice) on the future reform and modernisation of the German Dual System for apprenticeship training.

    They recommended less and broader occupational profiles and the idea of wandering occupational profiles. By this term they were looking to map the boundaries between different occupations and to recognise where competences from one occupation overlapped with that of another. Such overlaps could form the basis for boundary crossing and for moving from one occupation to another.

    Heidegger and Rauner’s work was grounded in an understanding of the interplay between education, work organisation and technology. They were particularly focused on the idea of work process knowledge –  applied and practice based knowledge in the workplace. This was once more predicated on an idea of competence in which the worker would make conscious choices of the best actions to undertake in any particular situation (rather than the approach to competences in the UK which assumes there is always a ‘right way’ to do something).

    Per Erik Ellstroem from Sweden put forward the idea of Developmental Competence – the capacity of the individual to acquire and demonstrate the capacity to act on a task  and the wider work environment in order to adapt, act and shape (design) it.

    This is based on the pedagogic idea of sense making and meaning making through exploring, questioning and transcending traditional work structures and procedures. Rauner talked about holistic work tasks, based on the idea that a worker should understand the totality of the work process they are involved in.

    In this respect it is interesting to see the results of recent research by Burning Glass, a company using AI and big data techniques to analyse labour market information. They say that in examine the role of Receptionist in Burning Glass Technologies’ labor market analysis tool, Labor Insight, “we can see that receptionists have a variety of related jobs they can do based on their transferable skills. Transferable skills are types of skills that a worker can use across many jobs, allowing them to more easily transition into a new role. A receptionist has many transferable skills such as administrative support, customer service, scheduling, data entry, and more. These transferable skills will allow a receptionist to move into related jobs such as Legal Secretary, Executive Assistant, or File Clerk.

    According to Labor Insight, a Receptionist can transition into a Medical Secretary role which offers a higher average salary and is projected to grow by 22.5% in the next 10 years. This also offers an opportunity for the receptionist to venture into a new industry, allowing them to explore new health care roles such as Nursing Assistant, Emergency Room Technician, or Patient Service Representative.

    The transferable skills that Burning Glass talk of are very similar to Rauner and Heidegger’s wandering occuaptional profiles. Rather than. as some commentators have suggested (see for example Faisal Hoque), a return to humanities based subjects in providing abstracted knowledge as the basis for future qualifications, the need is to improve vocational education and training which allows workers to understand the potentials of integrating automation and AI in the workplace. Creativity is indeed important, but creativity was always a key aspect of many jobs: creativity is part of the work process, not an external skill.

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    Automation and the future of work: the Chatbot

    April 8th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    According to the Office for National Statistics, around 1.5 million jobs in England are at high risk of some of their duties and tasks being automated in the future.

    The ONS analysed the jobs of 20 million people in England in 2017, and has found that 7.4% are at high risk of automation.

    Automation involves replacing tasks currently done by workers with technology, which could include computer programs, algorithms, or even robots.

    Women, young people, and those who work part-time are most likely to work in roles that are at high risk of automation.

    It is important to understand automation as it may have an impact on the labour market, economy and society and on the skills and qualifications young people will need in the future.

    The ONS have developed a chatbot for people to find out more about automation. You can try it out below and you can download the data here.

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    Understanding Labour Market data

    April 8th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    The increasing power of processors and the advent of Open Data provides us information in many areas of society including about the Labour Market. Labour Market data has many uses, including for research in understandings society, for economic and social planning and for helping young people and older people in planning and managing their occupation and career.

    Yet data on its own is not enough. We have to make sense and meanings from the data and that is often not simple. Gender pay gap figures released by the UK Office of National Statistics last week reveal widespread inequality across British businesses as every industry continues to pay men more on average than women. This video Guardian journalist Leah Green looks at the figures and busts some of the common myths surrounding the gender pay gap.

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    Empower to Shape Change: Learning and Identities in the Changing World of Work

    March 21st, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    Empower-to-Shape-Change

    As regular readers of this blog will know, Pontydysgu were members of a consortium in a project called EmployID, funded by the European Commission. The project focused on changing work identities in Public Employment services and how technology could be used to support Continuing Professional Development, including both formal learning and informal learning.

    All too often such project produce a series of fairly unintelligible reports before they face away. We were determined not to replicate this pattern. Instead of producing a  series of annual reports for the EU based on different project work packages, for three years of the project we produced an an unified annual report in the form of an ebook.

    And the EmployId Consultancy Network , formed out of the project has now produced a short book, designed for individuals and organisations interested in organisational transformations, changing identities and learning.

    The EmployId Consultancy Network is a network of researchers, practitioners and trainers offering tailored services for solutions around facilitating staff development with the focus on professional identity transformation (among them are myself, Luis Manuel Artiles Martinez, Pablo Franzolini, Deirdre Hughes, Christine Kunzmann, John Marsh, Andreas P. Schmidt, Jordi Fernández Vélez, Ranko Markus, Karin Trier, Katarina Ćurković and Adrijana Derossi).

    This is what the book is about:

    The world of work is undergoing fundamental transformations.

    For example, nurses have mostly chosen their job because they want to care for their patients, but their work now involves, to a large degree, computer-based documentation and quality assurance measures. Practitioners in public employment services turn from administrating unemployment benefits into coaches for their clients. And engineers need to make sense of large scale sensor data and assess the opportunities of artificial intelligence techniques for their companies’ future services.We see technological developments such as digitization and automation in an ever increasing number of sectors and intensity.

    Are you embracing and shaping the change or are you being driven by it?

    Companies and public sector organisations have to reshape their value creation processes and guide their employees to new job roles, creating an uncertain outlook. Ask yourself are you embracing and shaping change, or are you being driven by it? The ability to utilise modern technologies and methods is simply scratching the surface. Overcoming resistance to change, stressful conflicts, and lack of openness are major road blocks. We also need to look at a deeper level of learning. Employees need to rethink their job roles, their relationship to others, and what a successful working environment means to them.

    Employees and Leaders need to take new approaches to match the new responsibilities

    This indicates the importance of the professional identity of individuals and occupational groups. Employees are often not given opportunities to engage in reflective learning conversations. There is a need for workers to consider the emotional aspects of their work and identity. It is important that they also acquire the skills needed to work effectively with others to move from a problem focus to a solution focus and help each other in their learning process.

    In this short book, we look at strategies to empower and shape change, including the role of technology and identity transformation for learning in the workplace.The contents of this book follow a deliberate path focusing on contemporary themes. It is aimed at practitioners, managers, researchers and policymakers.

    You can download a free PDF copy of the book here. Or you can order the paperback version on Amazon for Euro 14.40.

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    AI and vocational education and training

    March 7th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    I have been working on writing a proposal on Artificial Intelligence and teh training of teachers and trainers in Vocational Education and Training. So I’ve spent a few days chasing up on research on th subject. I can’t say a lot of it impresses me – there is a lot of vague marketing and business stuff out there which shows not much insight into education.

    One blog post I did like was by Rose Luckin, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies, University College London Institute of Education’s Knowledge Lab, who has written an ‘Occasional Paper: The implications of Artificial Intelligence for teachers and schooling’, published on her blog.

    Rose says there are three key elements that need to be introduced into the curriculum at different stages of education from early years through to adult education and beyond if we are to prepare people to gain the greatest benefit from what AI has to offer.

    The first is that everyone needs to understand enough about AI to be able to work with AI systems effectively so that AI and human intelligence (HI) augment each other and we benefit from a symbiotic relationship between the two. For example, people need to understand that AI is as much about the key specification of a particular problem and the careful design of a solution as it is about the selection of particular AI methods and technologies to use as part of that problem’s solution.

    The second is that everyone needs to be involved in a discussion about what AI should and should not be designed to do. Some people need to be trained to tackle the ethics of AI in depth and help decision makers to make appropriate decisions about how AI is going to impact on the world.

    Thirdly, some people also need to know enough about AI to build the next generation of AI systems.

    In addition to the AI specific skills, knowledge and understanding that need to be integrated into education in schools, colleges, universities and the workplace, there are several other important skills that will be of value in the AI augmented workplace. These skills are a subset of those skills that are often referred to as 21st century skills and they will enable an individual to be an effective lifelong learner and to collaborate to solve problems with both Artificial and Human intelligences.

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    Teachers tense and dissatisfied

    February 27th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    The UK National Foundation for Educational (NFER) research have published the first of what they say will be an annual report on the state of the teacher Labour Market.

    The Key Findings are as follows:

    • The secondary school system is facing a substantial teacher supply challenge over the next decade, which requires urgent action.
    • Retention rates of early-career teachers (between two and five years into their careers) have dropped significantly between 2012 and 2018.
    • Alternative sources of teacher supply, such as returners and overseas-trained teachers, have not increased in spite of the growing supply challenge.
    • One in five teachers (20 per cent) feel tense about their job most or all of the time, compared to 13 per cent of similar professionals. Two out of five teachers (41 per cent) are dissatisfied with their amount of leisure time, compared to 32 per cent of similar professionals.
    • Teaching’s traditional ‘recession-proof’ advantage over other professions has eroded over time due to a relatively strong graduate labour market. High job security for graduates outside of teaching makes it harder to attract them into teaching and retain them.

    They say teachers’ working conditions are a fundamental lever to effecting change over teacher recruitment and retention.

    The full report can be downloaded from the NFER website.

     

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