Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Graduate Jobs

November 19th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

MPs on the UK House of Commons education committee have released a report titled “Value for Money in Higher Education.” They draw attention to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that indicated 49 percent of recent graduates (within five years of achieving their degree) were in non-graduate roles in 2017.

This is a significant increase over the proportion at the start of 2009, just after the 2008 financial crash, when 41 percent of recent graduates were in that position. It is matched by a very similar rise even among the population of graduates taken as a whole—including mature students—from 31 percent to 37 percent in the same years.

The report stated: “Higher education institutions must be more transparent about the labour market returns of their courses.” It came with the warning that “too many universities are not providing value for money, and … students are not getting good outcomes from the degrees for which so many of them rack up debt.”

As the title of the report implies, much of the attention on graduate employment is due to the political controversy over the funding of Higher Education in the UK and the cost of participation in degree courses.

But there is another issue which has received less attention: how graduate (and non graduate) jobs are defined.

The Office for National Statistics explains the classification system as follows

1.The skill level groups are created by grouping jobs together based on their occupation according to the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) 2010 lower level groups. The occupation group is not available for some workers, these have been excluded from the total.

Occupations were grouped by the skill level required according to the following guidelines:

2,1. High – This skill level is normally acquired through a degree or an equivalent period of work experience. Occupations at this level are generally termed ‘professional’ or managerial positions, and are found in corporate enterprises or governments. Examples include senior government officials, financial managers, scientists, engineers, medical doctors, teachers and accountants.

2,2. Upper-middle – This skill level equates to competence acquired through post-compulsory education but not to degree level. Occupations found at this level include a variety of technical and trades occupations, and proprietors of small business. For the latter, significant work experience may be typical. Examples of occupations at this level include catering managers, building inspectors, nurses, police officers (sergeant and below), electricians and plumbers.

2,3. Lower-middle – This skill level covers occupations that require the same competence acquired through compulsory education, but involve a longer period of work-related training and experience. Examples of occupations at this level include machine operation, driving, caring occupations, retailing, and clerical and secretarial occupations.

2,4. Low – This skill level equates to the competence acquired through compulsory education. Job-related competence involves knowledge of relevant health and safety regulations and may be acquired through a short period of training. Examples of occupations at this level include postal workers, hotel porters, cleaners and catering assistants.

The sentence “Occupations at this level are generally termed ‘professional’ or managerial positions, and are found in corporate enterprises or governments.” Arguably this ignores ongoing changes in the economy with high skilled technical jobs being created by Small and Medium Enterprises rather than large corporations. As Malcolm Todd,  Provost (Academic) of the University of Derby, points out in an article in WonkHE: “The current government methodology of using traditional Standard Occupational Codes (SOC) to declare which roles are graduate level is dated. It’s not reflective of the current employment market and is not ready for the future job market. Codes are based on traditional views of careers and highly skilled roles, not the whole requirements of a role.”

He draws attention to Teaching Assistants working with pupils that have special education needs and disabilities, and emerging jobs in the growing retail, social care and hospitality, many of which require high skills but are classified as non graduate jobs. At the same time, jobs presently classified as requiring a degree such as accountants are like to decline due to automation and the use of Artificial Intelligence.

To some degree, the debate is clouded by a perception that graduate level jobs should command a higher salary (an argument used by the Government to justify high university tuition fees. Yet wage growth in the UK has been low across all sectors since the onset of the recession in 2008.

But with growing skills required in a range of different jobs, maybe it is time for a new look at how graduate jobs are classified or even whether dividing employment into graduate or non graduate occupations is relevant any more.

 

Jen Hughes

October 28th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

jen
I am very sad to report the death of my friend and colleague Jen Hughes. I first met Jenny in 1984 when I signed up for a summer school course for trainers. Jen was the tutor. My only previous experience of courses had been dry ‘talk and chalk’ and Jen’s experiential approach to teaching and training inspired me.

We became great friends and in 1988 Jen encouraged me to apply for a job at the Welsh Joint Education Committee where she was working at the time. Two years later I followed her to work for Gwent County Council, where she had been appointed Deputy Director of Education, and subsequently at Gwent Tertiary College, where we set up the Training Shop, a research and development unit. We both later left the college and in 2004 Jen joined me at Pontydysgu.

An intrepid traveller, Jen worked on educational projects throughout Europe, mainly funded by the EU, and in the wider world, working as an evaluator for the UN Development Programme in Kosovo and, she claimed, all of ‘the Stans’. She was particularly committed to access to education for girls and young women

Jen was an inspired and inspiring teacher and trainer. Over the last ten years she became convinced of the importance of integrating technology in the curriculum. She taught herself to program and produced hundreds of Open Educational Resources on using technology in the classroom and more latterly on teaching computing and computational thinking in primary schools through the series of Taccle projects. She developed and tested the resources at the local primary School, Ysgol Evan James, where for many years she served as a school governor. She facilitated staff development programmes and workshops for teachers on the use of technology throughout Wales and in Germany, Finland and other European countries.

A prodigious cook, Jen’s pies,  welsh cakes and buffets became legendary in Pontypridd, especially at the Welsh Club, Clwb y Bont, where she served for a time on the committee. She was also a great rugby fan, originally as a Newport supporter, then as ‘dinner lady’ for the London Welsh and finally becoming a stalwart supporter of Pontypridd as well as the Wales national rugby team. Jen was also a great fan of the Archers radio soap series. Earlier this year we wrote a successful proposal for a paper to be presented at the Archers Academic Conference in 2019, sadly too late for her. She was also a proudly pedantic grammar expert, over the years correcting hundreds of my split infinitives and always ready to help others with their grammar.

Perhaps the most abiding memory of Jen was her enthusiasm for whatever she became involved in and her generosity of time and spirit for supporting, helping and teaching others outside her day job. Condolences from all at Pontydysgu to Alex and to Jen’s children and grandchildren. Jen will be missed by many people: she cannot and will not be forgotten.

Data literacy and participation in adult education

October 17th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

DavidPollardIRL_2018-Oct-15I am ever more interested in the issue of data literacy and agree very much with Javiera Atenas from the Open Education Working Group, London who says “Learning how to use data and information is not just a subject among others, it’s an essential part of civic education.”

But it is not just learning how to use data and information. Perhaps more critical is how to understand and make critical sense out of data. Take the chart above as an example. The difference in participation in adult education are very substantial and on the face of it Nordic countries lead the way. Interesting too that Germany is well back in the middle of the pack. However I am not sure it is quite as it seems. I suspect the data is compiled from national data by Eurostat from the European Labour Force Survey. The issue may be that different countries classify participation in education in different ways.

When I get a free hour or so I wil try to follow this up. Meanwhile any comments and ideas from readers would be welcome.

Why we need technology for training teachers

October 5th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I have been doing some research on the training of teachers, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The figures make sober reading. A report ‘Digital Learning: Reforming Teacher Education to Promote Access, Equity and Quality in Sub-Saharan Africa’ by Bob Moon and Charmaine Villet points to the scale of the issue:

UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics (UNESCO, 2015b) has estimated that, globally, 25.8 million extra teachers will need to be recruited by 2030 to meet EFA targets (to put that in context, this is equivalent to the population of Ghana).

Of these, 3.2 million would be filling new posts and 22.6 million would be replacing teachers retiring or leaving the profession. There were 59 million children out of school in 2015. To have them all in school would require the recruitment of 2.7 million teachers if pupil-teacher ratios are not to exceed 40:1.According to the Institute’s forecasts, without such recruitment, 33 countries will not have enough teachers to achieve universal primary education (UPE) by 2030.

Sub-Saharan Africa faces the biggest challenge. of any major world region in this respect. For every 100 children beginning school in 2015, there will be 142 in 2030. And the figure is projected to continue growing at this rate through the middle years of the century. Of the 3.2 million posts to be filled worldwide, Sub-Saharan Africa will need 2.2 million to deal with this growth and, at a conservative estimate, 3.9 million teachers will be required to replace those leaving the profession.

Pretty clearly there is little chance of meeting these targets through scaling up traditional teacher training institutions, nor even through school based teacher training. That is why there is increasing interest in using technology – Open and Distance Learning, MOOCs, video and multi media, Open Educational Resources – in Sub-Saharan Africa. This development is often being led through different aid programmes run by UNESCO, the Commonwealth of Learning, USAid and other organisations. Early evaluations seem promising – although the real challenge will be in scaling up, mainstreaming and sustaining development projects. But researchers and developers working on initial and continuing teacher education in Europe and other richer countries could do well to look at what is happening in Africa.

 

Is a degree needed to do a graduate job?

October 4th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Sometimes media use seems to go in circles. Over the last couple of years there has been a return to the old fashioned newsletter – even if sent the ‘modern’ way by email. Since I am contemplating crafting a couple of newsletters for projects, I have been looking for examples of good practice and design.

One of my favourites is the Marchmont Employment and Skills Observatory monthly mail called South West Skills Newsletter. The title is a bit misleading and if you are interested in labour markets, employment and vocational education and training it is worth subscribing, even if you do not live in the south west of England.

Here is a taster from this months newsletter.

One in eight young people without degrees work in graduate jobs

One in eight young people without degree-level qualifications are working in graduate jobs, according to analysis by the Office for National Statistics. In 2017, 12% of non-graduates (327,303) aged 22 to 29 were working in a graduate job – defined as a role where the tasks typically require knowledge and skills gained through higher education. Sales, HR, and retail and wholesale management most common graduate jobs for non-graduates.

This compares with 54% of graduates (1,273,336) in the same age group who had a graduate job.

Like so much labour market survey  data it is a bit hard to know what to make of this. Is it that the Office of National Statistics definition of skills is off the mark or more likely that employers know that thes eskills can be gained without going to university. And of course there is still a very large number of 46% of graduates wh9c are not working in graduate jobs.

Autonomy and the importance of teachers

October 1st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

The technology industry spends millions trying to disrupt education. And one of their fantasies is that machines can replace teachers. I don’t think they can or should. On International Teachers day it seems appropriate to point again to the importance of well trained and supported teachers having teh autonomy to shape and support learning.

And by chance I found on Twitter today this excellent bog post, writing just about the need for autonomy.

@HeyMissSmith says:

I have watched with incredulity as the idea of scripted lessons and highly controlled curriculum content has grown. The idea that knowledge can be packaged nicely and given to teachers. That you can in some way control knowledge. That it is prepackaged food a teacher microwaves for her class (as per instructions). Not so. Knowledge when it meets a class of thirty individuals plus a (hopefully) excited teacher becomes something else; it becomes an ocean of possibilities. It becomes the universe, past, present and future. A skilled and enthusiastic teacher will take knowledge, and their class reactions to it and will shape the conversations. Steer children through the endless sparks and dead-ends they create with it. They will cover much ground, but what that ground is is not apparent until the class is in front of them.

What am I saying? That we have to trust teachers with knowledge.

Leaving home

October 1st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

living at homeI’ve had this graphic hanging around for quite a while, so it may be out of date. I think the point of it is that like much data the figures are fascinating but it is quite difficult to interpret. Why do boys leave home earlier than girls? Why is there such a big difference between countries. Although obviously there will be differences between those countries where young people normally leave home to go to university and those where they usually move to another town or city. And I am sure some of it is explained by socio- economic factors. It costs money to leave home. But I am not sure this explains it all. I would be very interested in anyone else’s perspective on this data.

CONNECTed Learning

September 26th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

With Brexit looming like a big black cloud over us, Pontydysgu have established a second organisation based in Valencia in Spain. And we are happy to have started our first project at the start of September. Pontydysgu SL are partners in an Erasmus Plus project called CONNECT, coordinated by the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Here we give the ‘official’ summary of the project; in a follow uppost I will discuss some of the wider issues the project raises.

CONNECT is designed to facilitate access to upskilling pathways.  The overall objectives of the project are a) to build and pilot an urban ecosystem of lifelong learning, that helps to leverage the educational impact of European learning cities and b) to develop a learner-centered approach to learning, which harnesses the assets of a city and transform them into a network of seamless pathways of learning experience. At the heart of CONNECT lies a digital learning hub, which by citizens can be used to set up personal learning projects and share their learning journey with the local community. The role of CONNECT is to build and facilitate access to networks that can support a person’s learning  goals and career development over a lifetime.

CONNECT builds on the assumption, that in a society where existing educational pathways no longer guarantee opportunity, and with a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, networks can open up new entry points and pathways to opportunity in particular for those who are distant from learning or disadvantaged. Learners who have peers and mentors who share their interests, can make a better connection from learning outcomes to real world opportunities. Moreover, it has been demonstrated, that education works best when it connects with and builds on other initiatives, like community issues, and when it links learning to opportunity creation, like jobs and skills needed by the wider community. Last but not least the project aims at facilitating access to upskilling pathways by encouraging learners to develop a sense of ownership for their learning, along with a change of attitudes towards learning, so habits of lifelong learning can take route.

Moreover, CONNECT builds on the assumption that the outcomes and impact of adult education in the digital age can be significantly improved, when shifted from siloed to open learning architectures, from consumptive to participatory learning and, from institutions to learning in networks. The project supports this shift by encouraging adult educators to take on new roles, such as becoming facilitators of personal learning projects and brokers of learning within networks. CONNECT will guide adult educators on their way to the digital learning society, and equip them with the skills needed in order to guide and support the adult learners of the future. CONNECT in this sense extends and develops educators’ competences on the effective use of ICT.

CONNECT supports the open education and innovative practices in a digital era by building city-wide digital platforms, that enable adult learners to set up personal learning projects based on their passions and interests;  build connections with learning that appears across multiple contexts of the city; collect, mix and remix local learning resources and, with the help of peers and facilitators leverage their skills and competences; share learning outcomes with others, get feedback and ideas for improvement and gain recognition of their learning.

Ubiquitous technologies nowadays allow for learning anywhere and any time, which causes a shift from education to learning in open learning architectures. Moreover, learning which was previously based on consumption of information now shifts to participatory learning. Learning happens best when it is rich in social connections, especially when it is peer-based and organized around learners’ interests, enabling them to create as well as consume information. Finally, learning in institutions shifts to learning in networks. In the digital age, the fundamental operating and delivery systems are networks, not institutions, which are one node of many on a person’s network of learning opportunities. People learn across institutions, so an entire learning network must be supported.

However, while the Internet over the past decades has put the focus on distance education and on collaboration among people that are geographically distributed, CONNECT seeks to bring again into the picture local issues, recognizing the critical role of technology-enhanced learning, supporting not only interactions with others around the world, but also and, perhaps more importantly, with people and organisations nearby.

CONNECT brings together 7 partners from 5 EU member states, who contribute to the project through profound expertise on learning cities and regions, community development, neighbourhood learning, local education management, lifelong learning development and technology-enhanced learning.

AI Brain Drain?

September 3rd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

It is not often I read the Daily Telegraph. Not withstanding the politics, the paper only provides a short introduction for free with the rest of the content languishing behind a paywall. But I picked up this stub of an article through Twitter.

Britain faces an artificial intelligence “brain drain” as Silicon Valley raids its top universities for talent, data compiled by The Telegraph shows.

Around a third of leading machine learning and AI specialists who have left the UK’s top institutions are currently working at Silicon Valley tech firms.

More than a tenth have moved to North American universities and nearly a tenth are currently working for other smaller US companies. Meanwhile just one in seven have joined British start-ups.

The Telegraph surveyed 150 people who had gained either a postgraduate-level degree or had…..

The sample I think comes form just four universities so is possibly not reliable. But it possibly shows how unattractive working as a researcher in UK univeristies sis becoming compared to provate sector work abroad.

Vocational Education and Training Research in the UK

August 31st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Next week I am going to the European Conference on Education Research (ECER) taking place in Bolzano in Italy. I am talking in three sessions, one about changing identities in work, one on research around the use of technology in vocational education and training and the third on Vocational Education and Training research and innovation agendas in Europe.

The latter is an initiative by Monica Moso from the Bankia Foundation in Spain and is organised as a round table with researchers from Spain, UK, Germany and Switzerland.

I am reporting on the UK in response to three questions Monica has asked:

  • Question 1: What is the characterisation of the country’s existing VET R&D?
  • Question 2: What are the major contemporary challenges to the country’s existing VET R&D?
  • Question 3: Is there a national policy or strategy for VET R&D? If not, an informal agenda? How is it?

In order to answer the questions Monica asked us to select and prioritise the main research areas in VET in each country. For the UK I prioritised the following areas:

  1. Economic development and VET
  2. Changing Labour market
  3. Apprenticeships/ internships/ workplace learning
  4. VET policy, organization and management
  5. The Salience of work
  6. Qualification research
  7. Careers
  8. VET teacher education and teacher behaviour
  9. Vocationalisation of higher education
  10. VET and Society

I noted that researchers in VET are drawn from a wide number fo different subject areas and attached to different university departments including:

  • Anthropology
  • Educational studies
  • Educational sociology
  • The study of higher education policy
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Industrial relations/human resource management/personnel management
  • Economics
  • Labour economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Politics and policy studies
  • Gender studies
  • Ethnic relations
  • Continuing education
  • Hotels, catering and leisure studies
  • Management studies
  • Engineering and manufacturing systems.

Monica asked us to characterise the state of VET research in our countries and to expand on the issues researchers face. This is my reply for the UK:

  • Extreme fragmentation, with research located in a multiplicity of institutional and disciplinary settings
  • Lack of stable funding / resources – funding from a very wide range of sources.
  • Lack of central research networks / infrastructure / knowledge exchange mechanism
  • Lack of reflexivity in the research / policy process, with a lack of a feedback loop between policy makers
  • Dislocation between research, policy formation and implementation
  • Ideology driven policy agendas
  • Frequent changes in policies and lack of thorough evaluation of their impact
  • Austerity and lack of funding in further education sector
  • Poor or non existent data

 

I noted there is no national policy or strategy for VET rsearch and development in the UK. However, at present the government is funding a VET research unit based at the London School of Economics (CVER)

The priorities set for the LSE unit appear to reflect government priorities, namely:

  1. Describing the Further and Vocational Education landscape in England
  2. How does vocational education affect individual prosperity, firm productivity and profitability, and economic growth?
  3. How can the quantity of ‘high quality’ vocational education provision be improved?
  4. How do the costs and benefits of vocational education influence individuals’ participation decisions

These areas reflect the informal agenda set by the government which is largely ideologically driven.

Some VET research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council – e.g the LAKES project at the Institute of Education

There are a wide range of different sources of funding for VET research. These include:

  • Foundations and trusts
  • Government departments and agencies
  • Political parties
  • Trade Union Congress (TUC) and trade unions
  • Confederation for British Industry and industry organisations
  • Professional bodies
  • Royal Society for the Arts
  • Careers organisations
  • Industry education bodes
  • Local Economic partnerships

There is no central mechanism for deciding the knowledge needs of the VET system – nor for agreement between participants on the main problems. Whereas in some areas such as apprenticeship there is general consensus as to its importance the policy implementation is contested. Ultimately policy options are imposed by central government. At least in rhetoric, there is considerable reliance placed on the views of employers.

All in all it is a fairly depressing picture. Is there anything I have forgotten?

 

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    Robots to help learning

    The TES reports on a project that uses robots to help children in hospital take part in lessons and return to school has received funding from the UK Department for Education.

    TES says “The robot-based project will be led by medical AP provider Hospital and Outreach Education, backed by £544,143 of government money.

    Under the scheme, 90 “tele-visual” robots will be placed in schools and AP providers around the country to allow virtual lessons.

    The robot, called AV1, acts as an avatar for children with long-term illnesses so they can take part in class and communicate with friends.

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    Adult Education in Wales

    Learning and Work Institute is organising this year’s adult learning conference in partnership with the Adult Learning Partnership Wales. It will take place on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

    They say “Changing demographics and a changing economy requires us to re-think our approach to the delivery of learning and skills for adults. What works and what needs to change in terms of policy and practice?

    The conference will seek to debate how can we respond to need, grow participation, improve and measure outcomes for citizens, and revitalise community education.”


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