Tuesday, October 25, 2016

mlearn newsletter - catch up on mobile learning news

Unable to get across to Sydney this week for the annual mlearn conference :(

As a consolation, caught up with the mlearn newsletter to see how the mlearning community is progressing. The newsletter had several good overviews on mlearning. Summary of a two below:

1) Professor John Traxler (8 minutes) presents on challenges going intothe future of mlearning.  Need to move into sustainable mlearning. Discussed the requirement to move into a BYO environment and the importance of providing students with skills to critically evaluate the information they will need to continually access when they leave the gated community of education.  Still reluctance amongst educators, maybe in the formal, pre-tertiary sector to free students from the closed school learning management system. Etiquette in how to work with mobile phones within an educational contexts.

2) Marcus Specht, Welten Institute (16 minutes)  video
Learning design / instruction design for augmented reality – important to ensure augmented reality object is appropriate to context. Example provided is a museum guide whereby the museum objects are connected to audio commentary (through QR codes for instance). Use of infrared sensors to be able to locate user so that appropriate augmented information is provided – i.e. what is the person looking at. Vocational education example is of a head mounted camera providing virtual instruction (e.g. virtual projected hands of expert) on to machinery requiring maintenance or repair. Also covered wearable technologies and their potential for mlearning.

Paper referred to:
Dimensions of Mobile Augmented Reality for Learning: A First Inventory – 2012 - see pg. 117.

Also recent article in NZ Stuff on availability of hardware for virtual reality etc. for how well NZ is set up for implementation of educational VR.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

NZ VET research forum day 2

NZ VET 2016 day 2

Wednesday dawns with rain clearing to blustery conditions with 20+km northerly wind. 

The day opens with MP Grant Robertson providing an opposition party viewpoint on the future of work commission. The Labour Party has convened a future of work commission with final report due first weekend of November at the Annual Labour Party conference. Provided rationale for the report and its links to the values and principles of the party. Summarised the value of work as per findings from a survey of union members , it is more than earning a wage, work provides challenge and satisfaction. Need for employer, unions, workers and government to face the challenge. How to move away from the trickle down to providing support on ground up innovations to work through technological changes to work composition. Recommends 3 years free training / education for every NZer along revamp of career advise at school and funding for young entrepreneurs. Need to adopt active labour market policies to ensure evidence based data available to populace for making ongoing career decisions.

Keynote from Professor Alison Fuller who speaks on her work with Professor Lorna Unwin on 'creating expansive apprenticeships: what are the challenges and benefits?' Provided a background (policy and historical) to place of apprenticeship in England and other countries. Context include uneven skill distribution, pipeline and productivity gap; concerns on prospects for youth and social mobility; young people's changing aspirations; and a growing international interests in apprenticeship. (See book contemporary apprenticeship edited by Fuller and Unwin). Need to shift from traditional paradigms of apprenticeship to newer solutions. Begin with studying how apprenticeships aligned or not to labour market. Relationship of apprenticeship to occupation still under developed and requires addressing. Overview of how occupation is conceptualised - skilled trade? Job vs occupation (Clarke, 2011) and Beruf which carries the image of occupation for life long learning and development. Post - occupational societies because of shifts fro long term employment and strong occupational identity to more generic attributes e.g. (Reich, 1991) - routine production, in person service, symbolic analytical services etc. need to broaden how a apprenticeship is constituted. Post occupation societies may be premature but provide an anchor for thinking bout how occupations may develop into the future. 
Provided contemporary UK initiatives on government supported apprenticeship. Rationale for adoption along with introduction to higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships. Over 53% of apprentices are female as many service occupations offer apprenticeship. Summarised the expansive - restrictive continuum and how it can be applied across workplace based learning. Now applied across many support structures for apprenticeship and workplace learning in NZ. Provided examples in the U.K health care sector of how continuum informs. Introduced the terms of high/low use and high/low exchange value. Use refers to clear occupational definition, exchange value to possibilities for moving beyond apprenticeship to higher skilled work and qualifications. Emphasised the importance of workplace as a learning and teaching in providing an expansive learning environment. Need to get learning right through apprenticeship as it will then shift policy. Important to involve all players contributing to expansive apprenticeships. 

After morning tea, a session with Heather McDonald, Anne Alkema and Adrienne Dawson on 'encouraging completion: Why do trainees drop out an what can we do about it; the principles of on-job assessment in ITOs. 2014 stats indicate completion over 5 years of trainees at 42% and apprentices at 51%. Overviewed the research approach. Shared interview fragments which example the restrictive workplace learning experienced by many non-completers. Learning at work sometimes unavailable, training and support variable, time to complete 'book work' found to be a challenge. Reasons for non completion tends to be cumulative with 'life getting into the way' and a tipping point occurring to push trainee or apprentice out of contract. Identified some as regretting and others as being relieved about completion. Regretters tended to move on to another form of work or restart. Does with a filling of relief tended not to re-engage. Presented roles of employer, ITOs and trainee in working towards completion. Experiences of trainees etc. we're very similar despite differences in support within industries. 
Principles for on job assessment connects well with helping to inform how to support all trainees and apprentices. Tapped into the work of Vaughan and Cameron (2010) with the principles are: partnership and collaborative approaches; assessments that support learning and skill development; qualified staff; and moderation systems. Advocates (Hipkins et al, 2016) to regard NZeA as diversity is n important feature of a responsive, resilient, complex system. Provided examples of learning conversations as a way to assess in the workplace. 

Next up, with Joanna Rhodes from Southern Institute of Technology who offers a summary of an inter-professional education project with medical interns and nurses in 'breaking down the silos'. Started with rationale and an activity to illustrate the need to work outside of silos. Described the inter professional education (IPE) between SIT and University of Otago with Southland Health Board, to bring 3 interns, 3 dietitians and 6 nursing students together. Shared    lunch to lubricate the process. Introductory activities to build teams. Then a simulated activity with 'patients' role played by tutors who don a rubber 'mask' transforming them to an elderly person. (Mask ed). The patient presents with an emergency and team have to work out treatment plans. Discussed advantages of using the approach. Detailed future work to continually evaluate and improve the process. 

After lunch, a digital keynote via Skype with Professor John Buchanan who is chair of business analytics at the University of Sydney. The presentation is centred around 'real world' progressions and their implications for VET' an NCVER funded project. He argues for a shift from mechanistic notions of skill to building 'tacit Vocational streams' and nurturing 'communities of trust'. Covered the why, how, what was found, was it worth it  and where next. Current policy to increase number of people complete qualifications but does this lead to success for individuals and nations? Reasons are actual connections between work and qualifications remain weak; complaints of skill utilisation continue and TAFE space being taken over by universities. 3 strands identified to research, VET to school pathways, VET to higher education pathways, and pathways connecting education to work.  Invested these in 7 strands. Found mainstream analysis and policy start at the wrong point, have to focus instead to human capital, Vocational streams and communities of trust. Summarised findings from each of the strands. Used example to unravel one of the strands - how pathways from trades move beyond. In agriculture, tracked how people move through qualifications over 10 years. Farm managers tend to have more predictable patterns. Manual farm workers tend to have very mixed horizontal movement across to other industries. Propose there are high skill, low skill and marginal trejectories through working life. Using 'braided rivers' as a visual analogy, the concept of Vocational streams is constructed. Developed categories of Vocational streams. Then an example on how to apply the framework. Also suggest trimming down number of qualifications from 197 occupational category qualifications to 27. Discussed ways to accomplish the rationalisation of qualifications. Detailed the pluses and minuses of the project outcomes. Proposed keys to fostering the Vocational streams approach by building the relationships and communities of trust. 

Back to concurrent streams. Dr. Alistair Shaw from NZ Union of Students' Associations. He presents on strengthening student representation in short and lower level courses. An Ako Aoteoroa funded project with Waiariki Polytechnic. Covered background, rationale and project approaches and findings. Need to ensure all students have a voice in how their learning experience is enacted. Tried out various methods to obtain feedback from students who do not usually engage with contributing to course or programme representation or with institutional evaluations (paper, survey, focus groups). Provided suggestions as to how to meet the needs of students. 

Last session of the day is with Dr. Averil Coxhead from Victoria University who reports on an outcome of the 'language in the trades - LATTE' project with 'thermostat, propane and OSH: a technical and pedagogical word list for plumbing '. Presented the methods used to develop a pedagogical word list for plumbing developed from written plumbing text for level 3 and 4 courses. The study informs course and resource design and also the construct of pre and post course assessments of plumbing knowledge. Project also has carpentry, automotive engineering and fabrication. Provided examples of the complex vocabulary for first languages students. Development of specialised corpus includes comparing with most common 20,000 words. Created new word lists for each of 4 trades from words appearing more than 10 times. Ran the lists through with trades tutors to find out commonality of words as technical term. An interesting presentation providing insight into complexities of linguistic analysis. 

Dr. Stanley Frieleck, new Ako Aoteoroa director and Josh Williams closed a successful conference with some reflections on the contributions from presentations. All in, a very good conference with pertinent papers of use to my own research and good overview for other participants who tend to pop in and out of the NZVET forums. 

NZ Vocational And Training research forum 2016 day 1

At the annual NZ Vocational Education and Training Conference on Tuesday 18/10 and Wednesday 19/10. 

Conference opens with mihi and welcome / haere mia from Ako Aoteoroa Kaihautu Matauranga Maori (Deputy Director Maori), Dr. Joe Te Rito and Josh Williams, Industry Training Federation - joint sponsors / conveners of the conference. Minister Louise Upton, Associate Minister for tertiary education, skills and employment, provides opening presentation to reiterate government's emphasis on supporting skill based learning. Challenge of keeping up with accelerating change in workforce composition due to technology. Summarised NZ context relevant challenges, engaging NEETs, encouraging women into trades, upskilling the older workforce, assist learners to make knowledgable career choices. 

Professors Ewart Keep from the SkOPE at Oxford university sets the scene with the first keynote on 'the role of employers, employer ownership of skills, be collective organisation and representation in vocational education and training'. Shared UK government's initiative with the Employer Ownership of Skill scheme, evaluating different models of collective employer action in skills. An action research project. 3 players in skills market, state, employers and employees. Employers are critical as they determine type, number and some direction on skills. Education and training sector tend to concentrate on supply no delivery rather than skill type. Roles of employers include forecasting, specification and design of qualifications, involvement in assessment and provision of work integrated learning. Not all roles leveraged. Discussed pros and cons of employer participation with caveat that various sectors come in with different motivations and perspectives. Shared UK responses via various projects to engage employers. Evaluate of these reveal a mixed picture. Prevented further decline in training volumes. No impact on employer investment, recruitment patterns, productivity or profitability. Slightly reduced apprenticeship take up and employee turnover. Short time frame of 2-3 years too short especially for scheme which is to provide long term impact. Covered why these findings occurred, providing examples of 'what not to do' to NZ.

My presentation comes up after morning tea when concurrent sessions begin I discuss the ramifications of 'capturing the invisible: the role of graduate profile outcomes in assessing the 'becoming' process'. In summary, I built on previous work connecting graduate profiles to occupational identity formation. Concrete examples and clarification are presented along with options for ways forward. Graduate profiles provide a tool for visualising occupational identity but there are nuances as individuals are graduates. Different organisations emphasis different skill needs to meet the demands of their market. Therefore challenges with ensuring aspects of craftsmanship maintained and how it can be recognised. The presentation focused on application of principles argued in two articles on graduate profiles published recently - the first setting the scene and linking graduate profiles to occupational identity formation and the second providing an example on how graduate profiles may be linked to occupational identity being conferred by others before self-inference.

Next up, catch up in David Earle's work on 'school to work: what matters? Education no employment of young people born in 1991'. From statistics of NZ Integrated Data Infrastructure. Shared the work undertaken which contributes to definition of NEET as no employment or training for 6 months, might be on benefit. 
Presented a series of snapshots on what happens to young people after school. Data of people born 1991 between 2006 to 2014. Gauged if they had gone overseas, continued on to tertiary, in work and NEET. Tried to find out what disengagement at school may lead to. Around 13% of the 60,000 have gone overseas by age 23 with some correlation between disengagement at school and going overseas. Disengaged students with low performance have very few going on to complete bachelor qualifications. Higher likelihood of those who are disengaged at school and who did not complete any school qualifications to be NEET although about 20% of NEETs have level 3 NCEA. 

After lunch, an introduction from Scarletti, one of the major sponsors of the conference. Specialising in return on investment, market research etc.

Then Jodieann Dawe National manager for research and engagement, from the Australian National Centre for Vocational Education Research. She provided a well-received overview of the various NCVER objectives and how NCVER supports VET research. Also introduction to politics, funding and federalism and responsibilities at federal and state levels. Covered the change to workforce through technology and the growing skills for  flexible future. VET needs to work in digital platforms, changing learner and employer needs, increased demand from mature aged reskillers. 2016 paper future VET. 

Attend session with Perrin Rowland and Dr. Helen Anderson from the Intueri Education Group on ' learning and technology: using technology to build the evidence base in Vocational Education and Training'. They presented on a project in the hospitality context on using mobile technology to support the feedback process on teaching and learning. Narrated the evolution of a e-feedback process for teachers and how this feeds into continuous improvement of students' learning. The result will inform learning design, create more effective learning experiences and gather and apply the feedback. My checkin101 developed to be a quick check in solution. https://my.checkin101.com/PXRBP9/latest/0
The thing explainer used to select appropriate words to use as site provides most common 100 words in each language. Checkin100 would email once a week for feedback but in first interaction, poor completion. Second round, tutor also reminded and tutor was able to obtain results and work on feedback after each round. Currently used across institute with all classes and students, tutors encouraged to work on feedback to improve learning experiences for student.

Then a presentation with Massey University's Jennifer Green with 'online learning professional development of registered nurses'. Based on action research project over 16 months to support professional development via on-line for nurses working in busy hospitals. Heutogogical and adult learning principles frame the work. Recommended the need to rework entirely, the learning design, when moving delivery to on-line. A one size fits all is also not the way to go either. What would then work? Need for quiet learning space at work; to fit into a busy workplace and home responsibilities ; transformation of content to suit adult learner with greater learner choice; help desk and video tutorials to assist with digital competence and confidence; 24/7 access; matched to learners' needs and awareness of organisational system, challenges and realities. 

Following afternoon tea, another session with David Earle  and Paul Satherley on Skills and Education, and work: insights from the survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), a shared output between Ministry of Education (Matt) and Ministry of Business, innovation and Employment (Kelsey Whyte) Covered data of relevance to NZ vocational education research community. Firstly provided an overview of what PIAAC measures, how it measures along a continuum and sorted into levels 1 - 5 or 6, participant countries and NZ contexts. Results from Literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology rich environments. Historically NZ does well on Literacy (4th) and problem solving but less so in numeracy (13/33). Between 1996 and 2006, large increase in Literacy at lower level and a bit less between 2006 and 2014.  Comparative data fro Maori and Pacifica show increased Literacy, small improvement in numeracy and lower in problem solving. Relationships to skills and work also presented. Qualifications mismatch was high. People with higher quals have access or undertake more learning activities.  

Last plenary session with Murray Sherwin, chair of the Productivity Commission summarising the relevant draft recommendations from the inquiry into new models of tertiary education. The report was commissioned by government to explore new models for tertiary education. Covered the overall rationale for report and parameters of the recommendations. There is a need to meet challenges wrought by technology, demographical changes, international competition and changing job market. Submissions now sought for the draft which has 71 findings and 33 recommendations with 10 questions seeking more input. Emphasised the concept of education as being 'co-produced' with students and others - institutions, teachers, employers etc. important need to shift present system is than there is still poor match between qualifications and work and does not cater to all the population, especially those with limited capital to begin with. Focus on finding ways to untangle present system to allow for innovation in pedagogy rather than present efforts on working around the current rigid system. Encouraged submissions by end of November. 
Busy but productive day ends with usual opportunity to network with the traditional project launches and drinks with nibbles. Three Ako Aoteoroa projects launched. Good practice in assessment for on-job assessment, understanding non-completion of industry qualifications and a mentoring model for ITOs and employers

Monday, October 10, 2016

Is a university worth it? - overview Nigel Latta documentary

Had a look over the weekend at an archived episode of Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta. The episode was on whether a university qualification is worth the costs.

Here are some notes taken while watching the programme:

At 17, students need to make decision that will affect the rest of their life. Are they ready? And have they sufficient information? Many find difficulty in deciding on a pathway. High school subject choice often important. If  the student is on wrong pathway, it can be difficult to switch.

at the moment in NZ, for 18-24 year olds, 20% are unemployed, 28% are working and the rest are in some form of education.

Advantages of attaining a degree is higher salary over life span. Peak salary post-degree will be reached later in life. Unemployment also lower. Better health outcomes and more engaged as a member of society. Based on international research via interview with Prof. Stuart McCutchon from University of Auckland.

Latta compared his own experiences of studying (9 years to obtain degrees / post-grad dip) and current experiences. Unfortunately nowadays, student loans etc. does not allow for students to ‘try things out’. No room for ‘failure’. A financial decision required.

Rory McCourt, former president of the NZ student association articulated current challenges, many of a financial nature. Especially difficult for students from lower socio-economic families.

Phil O-Reilly added market choice from students is good in a way but students have to make the knowledgeable choice. Therefore, information accessible to students crucial. Career’s NZ app. one option.

Dr. Karl Steven provided another perspective on studying towards a higher degree. Dr. Stevens had a successful career as a musician before returning to study. There is a balance between degree with a ‘licence’ to open doors for earning to a journey of learning and becoming more ‘educated’. His experiences enriched by having studied. He did not see education as an investment but something intangible.

What of alternatives to university? Second ½ of programme on other choices.

ITF Josh Williams provided a pitch for trades training, apprenticeships and traineeships. There is a massive need in next 20 years for trades based careers. Highlighted a high school student about to leave school shares Gateway programme – Monday afternoons to learn how to drive forklift. Has opportunity to try out / have a taste, important to provide to students before they make a choice.
Earning while learning promoted with some success stories of post-apprenticeship destinations. How apprenticeships lead on to self-employment, work in high skilled occupations and for many, fulfilment in something they are passionate about.

 Attitude, aptitude, ambition, aspiration and attendance – what employers look for. Personal attributes and qualities gained through life experience. Relevant work experience and ability to be self-direction also important.

Entrepreneurship may not require university education. To be successful, skill and ability to do one thing really, really well.

NEETs, the 20% of 18-24 year olds not in employment, education or training, also discussed near the end of the programme. Focused on work of Foundation programmes working with NEETs to give them a ‘second chance’. Major problem of getting into employment is drug use amongst NEETs. Requires one on one effort to help NEETs get back on track.

Usual discussion on future of work and how ‘entry-level’ jobs are particularly threatened. Need to engage in ‘skilled’ work e.g. in infrastructure not going to disappear in the next decade. There is a need to do a better job of presenting young people with choices – not just on to university but to follow their interests.

 Overall, provides a good overview of 'state of play' and the variety of options available. Would recommend to all parents with children currently in secondary education as parents do play an important role in their childrens' career choices.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Productivity commission DRAFT report - New models of tertiary education

The draft report on New Models of Tertiary Learning was released last week. The report was commissioned by the NZ government to inform on a way forward.

The draft is 400 plus pages long and a call for submissions is on the draft due by end of November. The final publication is scheduled for February 2017.

Brief summary / overview of pertinent points, as per my own perspective / circumstances below:

The draft report finds the tertiary education system is not well-placed to respond to uncertain future trends and demands of diverse learners – page 2

Many complex reasons including high degree of central control stifling the ability of providers to innovate; fiscal pressure, political risks and quality concerns with prescriptive funding rules and regulatory requirements on providers. The current system is too supply-driven and providers respond to government rather than to student needs. Therefore reorientation required to be bring students back into the centre.

Some recommendations:

Competent institutions to self-accredit as cycles of review and accreditation are costly and focused on elements that are difficult to connect back to improving teaching / learning and enhancing innovation in the sector.
Break open the equivalent full time students (efts) funding model as it is too constrainted.
Allow unbundling of research and teaching – encouraging some institutes to be specialist teaching institutions
Performance linked funding discontinued - at the moment, there is an emphasis on course and qualification completions with emphasis on Maori / Pacifica completions.
More autonomy and responsibility to tertiary ed institutions - for those who have performed steadily without fiscal or academic challenges
Allow new entrants including - 
Offering internationally recognised ‘brand’ degrees eg Harvard etc
Aggregator models – already present TANZ, Metro etc
Promote student access and mobility i.e. pick and mix across providers
Better prepare students
Leading to empowered students and a more resilient system

Some implications:
Status of research at ITPs will require consideration. Many ITPs only do research to meet the degree requirements for staff teaching on degrees to be research active. Removing the requirement will see many ITPs elect to NOT do research. May lead to ITPs being seen as less 'academic' and more vocational - which they already are. Many ITPs are seen by students to be more student learning focused due to smaller class numbers and more emphasis on project-based learning.
Funding for modern apprenticeships as supported by ITPs may be discontinued as more funding did not equate to higher completion rates.

Overall, the media reported on the 'removal of interest for student loans' as the main feature and the Tertiary Teaching Union (TEU) felt the report did not go far enough

My 5 cents worth is in agreement with the TEU comments. I am not sure that the recommendations presented will actually lead to a shift towards a more innovative tertiary education sector. More autonomy and responsibility for institutions who are performing well is a good move. However, there are institutions (both public and private) who will still need some overview, in consideration of the institution's responsibilities to their students and the NZ tax payer. Parity of funding between formal and 'informal' post-school sectors is also something that requires discussion. Although there is always the 'who should pay for' argument as the outcomes of education are of benefit to individuals, employers / industries and the country / society at large. A 'voucher' system may work but in light of the 'future of work' requiring continued 're-training', the vouchers will need to be largish to cover the longer and more complex span of individual's work life. 

At the very least, the report does provide food for thought, focus conversations and provide a conduit for tertiary educators in NZ to contribute. The original report garnered a good range of submissions from across the sector. Due to the importance of the final report, similar activity to lodge submissions will now take place.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Youth Guarantees Scheme - NZ outcomes

A flurry of activity within the NZ Voc Ed Blogger community after a local media article reporting on the outcomes of the Youth Guarantee programme in NZ, published in August.

Details are summarised in powerpoint by David Earle and Tertiary Education Commission - TEC - summary sheet.

Youth Gaurantees is set up to provide free tertiary education to students 16 - 19 who are in danger of becoming NEETs (not in employment, education or training). As such, the funding has mainly been targeted at students who have dis-engaged from the formal school system. Programmes tend to revolve around providing learning to ensure literacy and numeracy foundations are established, often within situated learning environments - i.e. pre-trade / vocational pathway programmes.

The media snippet on TV1 news, sparking the blogging, was confused Youth Guarantees with apprenticeship :( leading to a mishmash of outcomes being reported which did not make much sense.

Stuart Middleton's latest blog covers some of the misconceptions and challenges related to helping young people find their feet in an educational systems still very much premised on preparing school leavers to move into further academic study.

This morning, more fuel added to the debate with an analysis of the types of NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) Level 2 subjects completed by students' ethnicities. The summary makes for important reading. Basically, academic subjects have low numbers of Maori and Pacifika students and when these students do undertake study in physics, chemistry etc. they are less likely to achieve. Completion of the 'vocational' subjects - hospitality etc. tends to be higher in the lower decile schools and with higher proportions of Maori and Pacifika students.

Quote from article:
Dr Aaron Wilson, the co-author of a University of Auckland paper about similar trends, said the fault was partially with the qualification design.
"NCEA's greatest strength and greatest weakness is it's flexibility," he said. "It can be used to recognise strengths and open doors, or pigeonhole kids and limit their pathways."
So, the conundrum is, how can the educational system work for all students, regardless of ethnicity and social economic status? Unfortunately, society still measures ones worth through 'intellectual' muscle. Never mind that 'vocational learning' can be just as complex. My example is coffee making. For the average person, making coffee using a domestic espresso machine can be fraught with variables. To get every cup of coffee the same, each and every time the machine is used, takes quite a bit of practice. One needs to learn how to 'read' the machine and match the machines function to the type of coffee being used. Frothing milk to the right consistency and temperature each and every time is another challenge! Yet, a learner who completes competency in coffee making is seen as 'less worthy' than someone who completes level 2 physics. 
Therefore, back to square one :( Vocational education's credibility and respect, as Stephen Billett argues, is really the prime objective. Until society as a whole, commits to respecting the parity of skill and knowledge, we will still be reading articles as produced over the last two weeks. NZ has set the framework with NCEA and the qualifications framework - to provide equivalency to all learning. However, there is still lots of work to bring the general populace to understanding the need to respect all forms of learning and contributions.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Future of Jobs - a critique

John Hagel provides here, a counter to the recent flood of articles, op eds and blogs on the future of work / the future of jobs. In the main, the theme in various articles summarised on this blog e.g. from the World Economic Forum,  nature of work into the future, changing nature of work, why we work, etc.

In the Hagel article, discussion is had on the following:

Firstly, is STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) the future. An important factor, especially in the NZ context. Hagel argues that focus on just one disciplinary aspect, leads to a rather unbalanced provision into the future. In the NZ context, there has been a big push for STEM with increased tertiary funding and support through Careers advise for STEM programmes. Schools are also encouraged through various initiatives, to encourage students into selecting STEM subjects and continuing into the advanced courses. In some universities, the decline in students studying humanities subject has let to restructuring - see recent article on Otago University.

Some aspects of the NZ economy could be enhanced through better STEM input. With an economy based around agriculture (including horticulture and forestry) and tourism, the tyranny of distance has recently been obviated through the rise of 'tech' companies, producing software solutions for a range of industries. For example Xero is often trotted out as an exemplar. Also, media stories on large number of small 'start-ups' and 'incubators' working on mobile apps, video games (rocketwertz),  sports visualisation etc. NZ is also a world leader when it comes to integration of technology with farming / horticulture / forestry practice.

However, as argued by Hagel, there is need for individuals to find, attain and sustain passion in what they set out to do. Not all individuals will have the attributes to be successful at STEM.

Also counters the perspective that technology will lead to jobs disappearing. Some jobs will never (?) be taken by computers / robots. Hagel's examples include craftspeople and artists, customizers (as in people who meet bespoke needs of consumers), curators, coaches, counsellors, compelling experience hosts, community hosts and moderators, captivating performers. The common theme with these jobs - creativity. Something educational systems have always struggled with assisting to develop.

The article then goes on to explain how people make a living. Suggests costs of living will decline due to technology and a move from 'ownership' to access. e.g. instead of owning a car, hire when required. Also that we should all consider and attain the attitudes to be entrepreneurs rather than employees.

All in , a worthwhile read, bringing some balance to the hype of technology advances and the other side of the coin with regards to the pessimistic outlook of the impact of technology on work. My take is that humans have survived due to their ability to adapt, innovate and re-invent themselves. There will be collateral damage along the way - such is life :( but like Hagel, I am an optimist. The future of work should not be feared but should be seen as another opportunity, to make use of technology to make the world a better place into the future.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Summary - op ed from Gavin Moody on 'what Australia can learn from England's plans for vocational education

Read through Gavin Moody's opinion piece last week on the conversation. Some interesting aspects, with several relevant to the NZ context.

The report Gavin refers to is the proposal  for Degree apprenticeships put up by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. In summary, there will be TWO routes post school - the college based academic and the employment based pathway to 'degree apprenticeships'. The report proposed 15 routes (industry sectors / discipline areas). Other recommendations are to reject 'market qualifications' and competency-based training'. Additionally, public funds should not be allocated to for-profit providers. A levy on employers would fund apprenticeship.

The above draws from two recent reports in the UK. One on post-16 skills published in July this year and the other called the 2012  'Richard's review' - full report available at this link.

There has been much debate and review in the of post-school alternatives by the UK government of late. Mainly, to try to engage their large number of NEETs and to ramp up skills to meet the demands of the post- industrial age. A major challenge has been (and still is) the stratification of the class system and a general attitude of non-academic / non-university qualifications as being inferior.

The Richard's review sets the scene by "redefining apprenticeships, focusing with greater rigour on the outcome of an apprenticeship, and using recognised industry standards to form the basis of every apprenticeship". A goal of 3 million apprentices has been set for 2020. Employers are to feature with the Institute of Apprenticeships set up to regulate apprenticeship quality, encourage better gender, minority participation across all trades, and a UK-wide levy for employers to pay out more than 3 million pound annually.

The post-skills report intention is to have all students move into either an academic or technical option post-16. Students should be able to move between these two routes seamlessly as well.
The technical route is an applied education pathway into skilled employment and may be attained through college-based or employment based (apprenticeship) options. Of note is the recognition of degree equivalency through wither pathway.

15 routes (industry sectors / discipline areas) have been identified. A ‘road map ‘ towards implementation of all the recommendations by 2020 included in the report.

Some learning from the above for NZ. We currently has 'vocational pathways' set up which is steadily gaining momentum. Credits gained at school or through shared 'tertiary college' programmes held in partnership with polytechnics or similar, may be used towards completing the National Certificates in Education at levels 1 - 3 (these are the school-base qualifications). Apprenticeship still has a way to go to gain parity with university qualifications, although the intend of the NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has always been to have qualification levels as stepping stones from level 1 (foundation) to 10 (PhD). However, there is difficulty, especially at the university level, to transfer credits across levels or for credits gained through vocational education into university degrees. There is movement, especially through various 'recognition of prior learning' arrangements - and example being the Centre for Assessment of Prior Learning (CAPL) at Ara. Skills and expertise gained through work are aligned to qualifications offered at ARA, providing a means of qualification attainment without having to commit to an entire programme of study.

Therefore, important to keep up with the play as various countries seek contextualised solutions to meeting the skill and work demands of the future.