Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

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.”

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.

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

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!).

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.

 

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.

The return of printed books

July 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

The various reports (see for example this article in BoingBoing) detailing the upturn in the sale of printed books in the UK, and a corresponding downturn in the sales of e-books are interesting, if only because it shows that trends towards digital products are not irreversible.

And although I eagerly embraced the ebook trend, I find myself increasingly buying traditional books. Why? Firstly, I think a book is just more enjoyable as a product, as a design artefact. Secondly, whilst I bought an early Kindle, I refuse to be tied in to Amazons social and economic ecosystem. I use a Android tablet now as an ebook reader and it generally works OK, but can be fiddly with different formats and finding downloads (NB Verso books has the answer – providing multiple formats, no DRM locks, and a variety of means of accessing copies). However, the tablet screen is not really readable in bright light, which certainly is a disadvantage in southern European countries.

I very much like the Chrome plugin allowing users to browse books on Amazon and then providing information on where they can be bought in the nearest bookshop. But although Amazon’s recommender system was a novelty at first, that novelty has worn out. It is just too damn predictable: the joy of bookshop browsing is in finding the unexpected and of course the ability to read the first few pages before deciding whether to buy. From a research point of view I find it much easier to recall where in a paper book the quote or section I want is, although that is probably my incompetence with productivity tools in electronic media.

And just like record shops, independent bookshops are upping their game, becoming more community and event oriented. It is difficult, if not impossible, for online bookshops to compete on these terms (although once more Verso does a pretty good job).

So I am not surprised at the return of the book but I wonder which sector or product is next in line for reverse digital disruption (unflipping the classroom)?

Brexit, universities and research

July 21st, 2016 by Graham Attwell

bannerEmptyH2020Much of the concern expressed by UK universities regarding Brexit is linked to free movement of researchers and to the loss of income from European funded research. these are important issues and while Brexit campaigners promised national money to meet any funding shortfall, the credibility of such promises is doubtful.

But there are other important issues raised from the probable exclusion, or at least downgrading, of UK institutions in European funded projects. In the 40 or so years since the UK joined the European Union, research has changed. The days of the lone researcher, labouring away in their office or laboratory are long gone. Research today is largely comprised of distributed and cross disciplinary teams, often at a large scale. Internet technologies have facilitated communication between distributed teams and made knowledge sharing much easier. Not only does Brexit threaten to isolate researchers in the UK from participating in such projects, but it also makes the UK institutions less attractive for ambitious researchers. And at the same time, especially in an age of austerity, core national funding for full time researchers has been greatly reduced, with the rise of short term appointments based on European and other project based research funding.

Of course European funding is not perfect. As with any such funding programme, the bureaucracy can be annoying (to say the least). Competition to get projects is high. And the short term nature of project funding often condemns promising prototypes to a silo, whilst seeking more resources to continue the work. Despite various attempts by the EU to prompt sustainability, research exploitation routes remain perilous. But one of the great benefits of the European research programmes in education has been for professional development, although this is rarely or ever picked up in evaluation reports. Many of those leading research and teaching in European universities today have benefited from the informal learning from discourse and exchange with peers in different countries. Exclusion from that opportunity for UK researchers will be one of the greatest losses for education from Brexit.

 

New book: Empowering Change in European Public Employment Services

July 18th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

employid bookReaders familiar with European Research projects will know how they work. The projects negotiate with the European Commission a DOW – Description of Work – which details the work to be undertaken in each year of the project. It is divided into discrete work packages. Every year the work package provides a (usually over lengthy) report on research and development undertaken which is then presented to a team of expert reviewers who can ‘pass’, recommend changes or ‘fail’ the report. Although obviously large scale multi national research projects need structures and plans. But all too often the work package structure separates research and development activities which should not be separated and the DOW become a restrictive ‘bible’, rather than a guide for action. And despite the large amount of work which goes into preparing the work package reports, they are seldom widely read (if indeed read at all), except by the reviewers.

In the EmployID project which is working with identity transformation in European Public Employment Services (PES), we are doing things differently. The work is structured though cross work package teams, who follow an adapted SCRUM structure. The teams are reviewed at face to face meetings and recomposed if necessary. And this year, instead of producing a series of Work package reports, the project partners have jointly contributed to a book – Empowering Change in Public Employment Services: The EmployID Approach which has just been published and can be downloaded for free.

The introduction to the 244 page PDF book explains the background to the work:

European Public Employment Services (PES) and their employees are facing fundamental challenges to the delivery of efficient and effective services and the need to change their strategies to combat high unemployment, demographic change in increasingly uncertain and dynamic labour markets. This does not only require developing new professional skills related to new tasks, but poses for more profound developmental challenges for staff members.

Three of these changes relate to understanding the changing world of work; a ‘turn’ towards coaching; and the increased importance of relations with employers. The staff need to learn new ways of working, with a major challenge being to enhance the power of collaborative (peer) learning in order to support staff in accomplishing their goals.

All these changes are linked to transforming professional identity, which requires learning on a deeper level that is often neglected by continuing professional development strategies. EmployID makes its contribution here; that PES practitioners’ learning related to professional identity transformation needs to be facilitated through social learning approaches and the nurturing of social learning networks, which include the following:

  • Reflection as a way of turning one’s own and others’ experiences into general insights on multiple levels, both from an individual and a collective perspective

  • Peer coaching as a way of helping learners in changing their behavior through a structured process

  • Social learning programmes as a way of engaging learners with new topics, other perspectives, and conversations around it.

Supporting start up businesses

July 5th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

 

 

 

 

One of the best things about Twitter is the ability to follow links to all kinds of things you probably would never have been to without it. And so I find in my notes somewhere the link to an article in Quartz – an online magazine (?) about which I know nothing. The link is to a loosely researched article about entrepreneurism – making the point that there is not much thing as an entrepreneurial gene but rather propensity to take risk and to set up new businesses is more like to be related to access to money – in other words to class.

The article, attributed to REUTERS/Allison Joyce, quotes University of California, Berkeley economists Ross Levine and Rona Rubinstein who “analyzed the shared traits of entrepreneurs in a 2013 paper, and found that most were white, male, and highly educated. “If one does not have money in the form of a family with money, the chances of becoming an entrepreneur drop quite a bit,” Levine tells Quartz.”

Entrepreneurship is all the trend in Europe at the moment, especially in the recession and austerity hit southern countries, where setting up a business is seen as one of the few ways of getting a job. However the rhetoric seems to overplay the potential of technology (everyone can be the next Steve Jobs!), whilst ignoring sectors of the economy such as tourism which probably represent better opportunities within the existing labour market.

At the same time programmes such as the EU Youth Guarantee fund are being used to set up support agencies for young people wishing to set ups their own business and we are seeing the increasing emergence of co-working spaces for new enterprises. But anecdotal evidence – and some reports although I cannot find them at the moment – suggest that many of these businesses are struggling to survive beyond the first one or two years. In austerity Europe bank capital remains hard to come by and most young people do not have access to their own funds to consolidate and explained their business. Although initiatives like the EU SME programme are very welcome, access to such funding is not simple and anyway the amount of grants on offer are simply insufficient. As European politicians slowly wake up to the disaster austerity policies have wrought, then establishing better support for new businesses should be a priority, tied to easy access to small business start up capital.

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    Peer Review

    According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers


    Teachers and overtime

    According to the TES teachers in the UK “are more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, with some working almost 13 extra hours per week, according to research.

    A study of official figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 61.4 per cent of primary school teachers worked unpaid overtime in 2014, equating to 12.9 additional hours a week.

    Among secondary teachers, 57.5 per cent worked unpaid overtime, with an average of 12.5 extra hours.

    Across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector.”


    The future of English Further Education

    The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned  the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.

    It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.

    The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.


    Skills in Europe

    Cedefop is launching a new SKILLS PANORAMA website, online on 1 December at 11.00 (CET).

    Skills Panorama, they say,  turns labour market data and information into useful, accurate and timely intelligence that helps policy-makers decide on skills and jobs in Europe.

    The new website will provide with a more comprehensive and user-friendly central access point for information and intelligence on skill needs in occupations and sectors across Europe. You can register for the launch at Register now at http://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/launch/.


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