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

    Skills shortages and skills gaps

    June 15th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

     

     

    The London School of Economics politics and policy blog is well worth following or anyone interested in Labour Market information and Intelligence. A recent article by Scott Hurrell looked at the outcomes of the 2015 Employer Skills Survey ESS), run by UKCES.

    Scott explains “Two of the most important indicators measured by the ESS, are skills shortages and skills gaps, collectively known as skills deficits.  The former exists where an employer reports at least one vacancy that is hard to fill because applicants lack the correct skills, qualifications and/or experience. The latter exists where employers report that they have at least one employee who is not fully proficient at their job. Skills shortages are thus a barometer for skills supply in the labour market whilst skills gaps reflect employers’ internal skills needs. Six per cent of employers reported skills shortages in the 2015 ESS, whilst 14 per cent of employers reported skills gaps. The survey revealed that skills deficits consisted of a range of soft (e.g. social and interpersonal) and hard (e.g., technical) skills.”

    The problem is making sense of such a survey. the article discusses research into skills gap often based on differences of perceptions by those answering the survey, usually HR specialists. In my own (limited) experience employers are rarely aware of the range of skills employees possess. In the MatureIP project we introduced an APP allowing staff to recommend the skills of their co-workers. I was very dubious that this would be accepted by the staff but was proved wrong – they were happy and excited to recommend others for their skills and knowledge. Sadly the pilot was in a careers company in England that was closed down before we could test the app for an extended period and since then I have nots seen anyone else take up the idea.

    One big issue is what employers do over identified skills gaps. One problem within hierarchal work places (which still dominate employment) is the lack of opportunity for autonomous decision making and for practising new skills. I suspect many skills deficiencies could be overcome by informal work based learning but that would require changes in work practices and an element of designing the work environment to support learning – a move still radical in todays austerity coloured world.

    A final note – despite the caveats over how the survey is interpreted it is a valuable tool for exploring further. UKCES is now being shut down due to the withdrawal of  government funding and it would be a pity if the ESS disappeared along with it.

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    Informal Learning @ Work

    June 10th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

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    Picture: Gothick

    On Monday 20 June I am helping to run a knowledge exchange workshop in Bristol, UK. The workshop is fee to participants and there are still a few spaces left. Details are below – register at EventBrite if you would like to participate.

    More than 70 per cent of all we learn comes from informal learning in the workplace. Yet despite increasing recognition of the importance of workplace learning in a time of fast changing technologies, work organisation and labour markets, little effort has been made to promote and support informal learning.

    Perhaps one of the reason for this is it has previously proven hard to track learning in workplace contexts, let alone to promote the collaboration, creativity and teamwork so much modern work requires.

    This workshop is based on work undertaken in the Learning Layers project and is intended to discuss these issues. Conceptualised as a knowledge exchange event, it is organised around short pitches and a hands on exhibition.

    The workshop takes place on June 20th from 10am to 5pm at Armada House in Bristol. University of West England Vice Deputy Chancellor Prof. Jane Harrington will open the event.

    We want to show you the work we have done and discuss with you whether the tools and applications we have developed might be useful in your work and learning context. We also want to hear from you about your needs and to exchange any ideas and tools you might have for supporting informal learning.

    We are piloting our tools in different settings such as Healthcare, Construction sector, Creative Industries and Higher Education:

    • Confer – an application for teams to explore ideas and reach decisions
    • Learning Toolbox – a flexible mobile based, context aware application for supporting learning in practice
    • Bits and Pieces – a web based program for collecting and making sense out of informal learning experiences at work
    • Ach So! And ZoP – mobile based peer to peer video annotation tools
    • Living Documents – a shared document creation environment

    Entry is free but places are limited so please register by following the link below if you wish to attend. Coffee and a buffet lunch will be provided, with an informal reception and drinks following the workshop.

    Please get in touch if you would like to present something at either the pitch or exhibition sessions. Send us an email to bristol [dot] layers2016 [at] gmail [dot] com.

    When
    Where
    BS1 4BQ – Armada House Telephone Ave, Bristol, Avon , Bristol, BS1 4BQ, United Kingdom –

     

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    A short note about communities

    June 9th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    PodcastToday I got an email from the Yahoo podcasters group mail. It was a long time since I could remember the last. But at one point, the group was very active with usually a daily digest appearing. And at that time it felt like a real community, of people from different countries and contents with different kills and knowledge reaching out to help each other.

    As podcasting has become established there is a wealth of help available online, videos and manuals as well as specialist software and hardware. Podcasting is not longer a frontier sport. And the community is no longer need, or at least it no longer plays the same function.

    And I wonder if that is true of other communities of practice. Etienne Wenger has suggested that communities of practice are always emergent (a point protecting them from making a fetish of conservative and out of date practices). That is usually taken to mean through membership, with new members becoming central as others move to the edges. But it may be that communities are always emergent in the knowledge and practices which constitute their base. And when that knowledge and practices cease to be emergent – as in the case of the Yahoo podcasters group – unless the community can move on to new emergent pastures, then it simply slowly dies.

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    Making sense of data about education and jobs

    June 6th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    restorer
    High or low skills? Graduate job or not?

    For a number years now I have been working on projects developing the use of open data for careers counselling, advice and guidance. This work has been driven both by the increasing access to open data but also by the realisation of the importance of Labour Market Information (LMI) for those thinking about future education and / or jobs. And of course with high levels of job insecurity, such thinking becomes more urgent and in an unstable economy and labuor market, more tricky.

    Yet even if we clean the data, add it to a database, provide and open API for access and develop tools for data visualisation, interpretation is still not easy. Here is one case, taken from this mornings Guardian newspaper.

    employment graph

     

    Although the article is using the chart to show the rapid growth in knowledge intense occupations, I am not sure it does. Assuming that these are percentage change based on the original job totals, it probably show growth in low skilled jobs is far outstripping high skilled work, especially in the last 12 months. And that is taking into account that (once again probably) most job loss due to technology is focused din low skilled areas – e.g the quoted 70,00 jobs lost in supermarket check outs due to automation.

    I am also interested to see from wonkhe that “The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) who have been running the Destination of Leavers Survey (DLHE) and its predecessors for 21 years, are now consulting widely on the future of assessing graduate outcomes.” For some time now there has been disquiet about the numbers of graduates working in ‘non graduate’ jobs. And that raises questions – just like the graph above focusing on high skills occupations – on just what a graduate job is. André Spicer, professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School, City University London has cited “studies suggesting that the jobs which require degree-educated employees have peaked in 2000 and may be going down” and notes that many people apparently employed for their high-level specialist skills end up doing sales and marketing or fairly routine generalist work.

    All this of course is highly subversive. Officially we are moving towards a high skilled economy needing more graduates and requiring higher level apprenticeships. My feeling in country slick Spain with high youth unemployment is what we need are apprenticeships in areas like construction and hospitality – both because they are sectors which can provide employment and also where higher skills are desperately needed to improve quality and productivity. Yet for governments there is an awful temptation to launch programmes in new ‘sexy’ areas  like games technologies despite the scarcity of jobs in these fields.

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    Tensions in Learning Analytics

    May 27th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    The debate around Learning Analytics seems to be opening up. And although there is little sign of agreement over future directions, the terms of discussion seem both broader and more nuanced than previously. I think some of this is in response to the disillusionment of early researchers and adopters.

    In yesterdays OLDaily, Stephen Downes pointed to an excellent article by Bodong Chen. Bodong points to the surge of interest in Learning Analytics but cautions that: “The surge of this nascent field rests on a promise–and also a premise–that digital traces of learning could be turned into actionable knowledge to promote learning and teaching.

    He suggests that: “One approach to understanding learning analytics is to recognize what are not learning analytics” including academic analytics and educational data mining. Instead, he says “learning analytics is more directly concerned with teachers and learners by attending to micro-patterns of learning.”

    Bodong draws attention to a tension between learning and analytics “as two pivotal concepts of the field” He points out that “learning analytics deals with educational phenomena at multiple levels”. As an example he says: “collaborative knowledge building as a group phenomenon depends on contributions from individuals, but cannot be reliably inferred from individual learning.”

    Understanding and accepting that “the meaning of learning analytics as a term is plural and multifaceted” is an important basis for future research. Within the only just emerging field of workplace Learning Analytics, not only is there the issue of individual and collaborative learning and knowledge development but also issues around proxies for learning. Whilst performance in practice might be seen as a possible proxy, performance may also be seen to involve a wider range of factors, including the working environment, the division of work and opportunities for practice. And the already established field of Performance Analytics seems at considerable tension to learning.

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    Thinking about Entrepreneurship

    May 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell
    For some time I have been interested in Entrepreneurship. For one thing I resented the way the Thatcher and Blair acolytes had stolen the word. Working class people have also been entrepreneurial, setting up small businesses or providing services. Yet to listen to the new reasoning, entrepreneurs were the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the world, millionaires and directors of multi million pound listed software companies. Just as Puritanism equated being wealthy with being one of the saved, so neo-liberalism equated being rich with being an entrepreneur. It was something the poor should aspire to and they should study in awe rich people as role models.
    Since the onset of the recession, or the crisis as it is universally called in southern Europe, some of the gloss has faded at least from the bankers.
    Yet with unemployment and especially youth unemployment remaining at very high levels and with employment increasingly precarious, there seems, at least in Spain where i am living, to be ever more emphasis on entrepreneurship as the hope for the future of employment. Over the last week we have attended two conferences and workshops on innovation and entrepreneurship. On the one hand the increasing support for people trying to set up their own businesses is to be welcomed, even if coordination between the many different agencies involved seems somewhat lacking.
    Yet the line of argument seems somewhat under developed. The answer for the ailing labour market is innovation Innovation is connected to entrepreneurship. The great future for innovation is technology in disrupting markets. Universities need to develop closer links to industry. We need more training in technology. Web 2.0 and social media are critical to marketing innovations. Look to Apple, look to Uber, look to AirB. Don’t forget the example of The Great Steve Jobs as a role model. And so on.
    As Jim Groom and Brian Lamb said in 2014 “Today, innovation is increasingly conflated with hype, disruption for disruption’s sake, and outsourcing laced with a dose of austerity-driven downsizing.” And I fear the increasing popularity and support for entrepreneurship is also becoming conflated with hype.
    I am curious about the overwhelming emphasis on technology, software and hardware. Is there any city on Spain – or for that matter anywhere else – which is not trying to develop the next Silicon Valley? Yet looking at the figures, the construction and care industries remain two of the largest industries in Europe by numbers employed. Yet they are rarely, if ever, linked to entrepreneurship. Services are continuing to grow in employment, although this covers a wide range of occupations. The number of people who make real money out of releasing Apps to the various app markets is extremely limited.
    I think we need more nuanced thinking around a  number of issues. Clearly labour markets are closely tied to employment. Whatever skills we teach young people they will not gain employment if there are no jobs. Self employment and starting up a business are increasingly attractive routes for young people (especially as there is little alternative). However businesses vary greatly in size and type. Motivations and ambition can be very different. Some people are just looking for a weekend or hobby business, others may be wanting to build on skills. Disruption is probably a minor source of employment or indeed driver of entrepreneurship.
    Whilst there is progress in providing support or young people in setting up their own business, advice and help is seldom geared towards them. Being told to go away and produce a profit and loss projection in a spreadsheet is only a small part of the story. And probably the major lack at the moment is help to develop businesses towards sustainability. Growth is not the only measure of sustainability. Bank capital is still in scarce supply and whilst welcome crowd funding has its downsides. And the schooling system in Spain, based on remembering facts, hardly helps young people in striking out on their own.
    Above all policy and practice need to link up. Having said that there is a big contradiction between policies of austerity and policies of supporting entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship requires public support as well as private funding. Enough for today…more to come.

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