Saturday, 23 October 2010

Oh those PDFs

Not that I have anything against portable document format per se – it’s just that I find reading 108 pages of a journal online is about 100 pages too many! There does not appear to be a print edition of the International Journal of Labour Research from the International Labour Organization (ILO). At least, if there is, it isn’t in the British Library's catalogue. I suppose, since it’s only published twice a year I could cope but for now I have simply glanced through the content list of last year’s two issues (nothing with this year’s date on as yet) and there’s nothing outstanding.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

What the heck is work anyway?

Sometimes it takes a while for someone to write something in the blogosphere, others to read it and some to include a reference to it in their own blog and so on.

The thread on the definition of work took over a month to reach me (via It makes for an interesting read – particularly when you realise that one of the formal definitions of work includes the word work in its definition.

Compulsion, money, activity (as opposed to rest), results oriented (but so is my knitting and that’s not work as I understand it). So, if we can’t define work adequately maybe we can manage to say what its opposite is.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Training and Progression in the Labour Market

Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No 680

Authors: Sin Yi Cheung and Stephen McKay (College of Social Service, University of Birmingham)


Who receives training?
This report concerns the training that people receive while in work, or in anticipation of working in the future, and the effects it has on people’s careers. This is training received after the end of education (in most cases). There is a great variety of activities that count as training, and in the statistical analysis we consider how far kinds of training are associated with different outcomes (hourly wages, in particular.

Data and Methods
We draw on three datasets for this study: the Labour Force Surveys (LFS) 1994 to 2008; the Families and Children Study (FACS); and the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). A range of descriptive statistics were employed to chart the trends over time. Binary logic regression, ordinary least square (OLS) linear regression, and fixed effects models were used to estimate the effects of training over and above those accounted for by individual traits.
In 2008, training was most commonly received by:
  • younger people;

  • women;

  • those working in the public sector (especially in local government, health or the armed forces), or working for non-profit organisations;

  • those working in larger organisations;

  • those with higher qualifications;

  • higher earners (those in the top quintile of earners); and

  • those relatively new to the job (training to aid induction.

Trends in training 1994-2008
The proportion of workers aged 16-69 [1] in training rose from about 20 per cent in 1994 to reach a high of around 28 per cent in 2003. This trend has been flat or on the decline since then, and particularly from 2005 onwards. Both the LFS and BHPS show this downward trend in the last few years. Training is also seasonal to some extent, with a lower proportion of the workforce in the third quarter (reflecting, perhaps, less training over the summer months).
This recent downward trend is found amoung virtually all groups. An important exception is older workers, aged 50 or older, who continue to enjoy increasing rates of training provision.

Changes in wages and training, longitudinal description
Hourly wages rates grew by 4.4 per cent between the 2006 and 2007 BHPS interviews, for those respondents working at both waves of interviews. They grew by five per cent where a respondent had received some training, and by four per cent otherwise. The rate of growth was higher where training was received, irrespective of the level of wages in 2006.
The highest increases in hourly earnings between 2006 and 2007 were achieved by young people, those aged between 16 and 34, and especially those at the younger half of this range.
For most age groups, except those under age 20, the rate of wage increase was raised if they had undergone a period of training.
Those who received training, compared to those who had not, showed greater variability in job satisfaction. That is, where a person had received training, they were both more likely to report an increase in job satisfaction, and more likely to report decreased job satisfaction. By contrast, there was greater stability in the reported levels of job satisfaction among those who did not receive training.

Changes in wages and training, longitudinal modelling 1998-2007
We look at the link between higher wages and having undertaken a spell of training in the recent past. This is based on data that tracks people over time. We first use models that control for a wide range of different background information. We then turn to look at statistical models that control for the unmeasured characteristics of people.
In standard linear regression models, the wage gain (measured by an increase in hourly earnings) to training (where received in the past year) were four per cent for men, and closer to two per cent for women. Modelling the median returns to training by quantile regression, rather than looking at the mean returns to training using the standard approach, produced quite similar results.
When we do not control for differences in individual traits (age, marital status, occupation) the increases in wages associated with past training appear to be much larger. This implies that what might appear to be the effect of training on wages is often largely due to differences in individual traits. Hence, it is important to control for these differences to isolate the specific effect of training on wage progression.
The current ‘state of the art’ within econometrics recommends the application of fixed-effect models to investigate the effect of training on wage returns. The purpose of these models is essentially to use individuals as their own control group in looking at changes in earnings and training. This provides a better estimate of the contribution of training to wage growth, as it controls for unobserved characteristics of individuals.
The estimated effect of training on wages is much reduced in these fixed-effects models. Training is then associated with an increase in wages of about 0.5 per cent, measured over the period from 1998-2007 [2]. However, where the training received was explicitly employer-funded or employer-provided, the size of gain was closer to two per cent.
If we adopt the recent suggestion in the econometric literature and restrict the analysis to only those who anticipated receiving training, the effects of training on wage progression can become statistically insignificant. This is a less tried and tested approach than the above statistical models.
Training does, however, seem to be strongly linked to labour market transitions – that is, undergoing a period of training seems to increase the rate of returning to work, and decreases the likelihood of job exit.

Limitations of the study
One of the difficulties in comparing findings across studies is the different measures and definitions used. They can be different even within the same study such as this one. We rely on existing data sets to provide detailed information on the duration, nature and type of training. The LFS essentially merges training with some aspects of education, while the BHPS does better at keeping them distinct. The degree of detail available in these data sets is also different.

1 We used ages 16-69 for most of this report. This takes advantage of the wider group of people to whom the questions were asked, not just those of pre-pension age, and permits some analysis of the increasing proportion of people who work after the age of 65. See Section 2.1.1 for further discussion of this selection.

2 In the BHPS, which we use for longitudinal analysis, training is measured by the question that mentions ‘training schemes or courses… or completed a course of training which led to a qualification’.

The impact of 14-19 reforms on the career guidance profession in England:

final report

Authors: Helen Colley, Cathy Lewin and Charlotte Chadderton

Published by: Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University

Full text (12pp) is available from Derby University

Hazel’s comment
To use a cliché – “it does what it says on the tin”. However, despite spending more than my usual “five minutes and give up” on trying to find an abstract I failed – miserably! And long-term readers are well aware of my aversion to writing a précis (actually it’s an ingrained belief in my inability to do so).

Sunday, 17 October 2010

10 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Emerging from deep prehistory, humans muscled their way up the food chain, with everything on the menu - including ourselves... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In the 17th century, handfuls of men using small boats, scaling ladders, and sheer nerve made piracy a profitable line of work. Not unlike the 21st century... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Acronyms are less innocent than they look: fluid, prone to lurches in meaning, they are weapons, in fact looser cannons than most... part 1 ... part 2

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
There is an exhilaration and joy to secure direct observational proof of a scientific theory. The history of astronomy is full of such moments... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
"Learning styles", they call it. Some students are visual learners, others auditory, or kinesthetic. The idea is, alas, largely bunkum... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Albert Camus ought to be buried in the Panthéon, with other great minds of France. But it looks like it is not going to happen... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
"You know people have tried to put me off as being crazy." Thelonious Monk was only too willing to use the notion to his advantage... more

On the Civility of Children’s Conduct by Erasmus (1530)
The great classical scholar of the Northern Renaissance, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, also had some thoughts about proper behavior. Teach manners early, Erasmus believed. To that end, he produced a small book addressed to children. It admirably commanded the attention of his young audience and remained popular for three centuries. “To lick greasy fingers or to wipe them on your coat is impolite. It is better to use the table cloth, ” he counsels. Also: “It is not seemly, after wiping your nose, to spread out your handkerchief and peer into it as if pearls and rubies might have fallen out of your head.” He returns repeatedly to the era’'s apparently vexing problem of the gaseous bellows: “Retain your wind by compressing the belly” and “Do not move back and forth on your chair. Whoever does that gives the impression of constantly breaking or trying to break wind.” If attempts at restraint fail, he advises, then do what you must but “cough loudly” to cover the sound.
Having picked this up from I can’t remember where I tried to acknowledge the source – found a 16-page article reprinted by UNESCO here. Hazel

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Lew Wallace, General in the Civil War, a man Billy the Kid wanted to kill, wrote a favourite 19th-century novel, made into a 20th-century movie: Ben-Hur... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
"Earth is the cradle of mankind, but one does not stay in the cradle forever." Space pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovskii had a vision... more

Career Guidance Today

It is not helpful to get a copy of the above publication and read in the editorial “we know that come August and September” when we're already at the middle of October. I know there has to be delay in publications going through the cataloguing and shelving process at the British Library but it seems that some publishers are more tardy than others at discharging their legal deposit responsibilities.

Why is there a lack of central funding for ...

enterprise education at Further Education Colleges?

an article by Brian Hardy (Newcastle University Business School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne) published in Research in Post-Compulsory Education Volume 15 Number 3 (September 2010)

This paper reviews the reasons behind the absence of central-government funding for enterprise and innovation at further education colleges (FECs). Enterprise and innovation are, according to conventional wisdom, crucial in rebuilding the UK’s economy and providing jobs. In pursuit of this, the government has provided central funding for enterprise promotion and education for both universities and secondary schools, but not for FECs. The review starts by looking at recent government policy papers on enterprise and innovation, then briefly considers the current economic characteristics that lay behind the need for enterprise education and innovation. The efficacy of the current proposals is questioned, looking at the concepts concerning the type and level of intelligence entrepreneurs need, also touching on what types of innovations can be expected to increase employment. The paper concludes by asking if élitist or class bias plays a part in the exclusion of vocational education & training students at FECs from central funding for innovation and enterprise.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Opening Your Doors to Young People:

practical guidelines for making advice services young person-friendly

Just been reading in Adviser (Number 141 September-October 2010) that young people are one of the least likely groups in society to find their way to an advice centre when they have a social welfare problem. To try to overcome this problem Youth Access, the youth advice and counselling network, has launched these new guidelines which are endorsed by Citizens Advice, AdviceUK and the Law Centres Federation.

The guidelines (PDF 24pp) were very slow to load when I tried – I’ve not actually read them!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Facebook lowers exam results

You may have seen headlines such as this about a month ago based on research done by Paul Kirschner and Aryn Karpinski reported in Computers in Human Behavior Volume 26 Issue 6 (November 2010).

The abstract of the article (Facebook and Academic Performance) says: “There is much talk of a change in modern youth – often referred to as digital natives or Homo Zappiens – with respect to their ability to simultaneously process multiple channels of information. In other words, kids today can multitask. Unfortunately for proponents of this position, there is much empirical documentation concerning the negative effects of attempting to simultaneously process different streams of information showing that such behaviour leads to both increased study time to achieve learning parity and an increase in mistakes while processing information than those who are sequentially or serially processing that same information. This article presents the preliminary results of a descriptive and exploratory survey study involving Facebook use, often carried out simultaneously with other study activities, and its relation to academic performance as measured by self-reported Grade Point Average (GPA) and hours spent studying per week. Results show that Facebook® users reported having lower GPAs and spend fewer hours per week studying than nonusers.”

So, it’s not Facebook that is to the villain of the piece but the attempt of people (students in this study) to do more than one thing at a time using the same part of the brain. The results of this endeavour are evidenced in essays quoting Martin Luther King having problems with Pope Leo X and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
It is, of course, perfectly possible, as the researchers not, to walk along the street, chew gum and listen to music “though even this sometimes leads to walking into street lamps or falling off curbs”.
Task switching, which is what these student are doing, is an art which has been perfected by parents (mainly mothers) so that they can simultaneously be cooking the dinner and be aware of what the child(ren) are up to in another room. Switching from stirring the sauce to shouting at the kids and back again is inbuilt and can occur with split second precision but it is not multitasking.

If you can get hold of a copy of the article it is really worth reading (I’ve just finished it) – particularly if you are a parent faced with “Of course I can be texting, watching YouTube and doing my algebra homework at the same time”.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The mediating roles of career self-efficacy ...

and career decidedness in the relationship between contextual support and persistence

an article by Simon Lloyd D Restubog and Patrick Raymund James M Garcia (The Australian national University) and Afryll R Florentino (The University of New South Wales) published in Journal of Vocational Behavior Volume 77 Issue 2 (October 2010)

Drawing from Social cognitive career theory, we examined how types of contextual support (e.g., parental support and number of career counselling sessions received) influence persistence. In addition, we test the roles of career self-efficacy and career decidedness as mediating mechanisms in the relationship between these types of contextual support and persistence. One hundred forty-six undergraduate students were surveyed over three measurement periods. Data were collected from multiple sources: surveys from students and parents and students’ archival data. Results provided support for our hypothesised mediated model. Time 1 student and parent ratings of support and Time 1 number of counselling sessions received were related to greater Time 2 career self-efficacy and Time 2 career decidedness. This in turn was associated with Time 3 persistence (i.e., reduced academic programme turnover). Theoretical and applied implications are discussed.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Defying Extinction: ...

the revival of the strike in UK employment relations

an article by Alan Tuckman (Nottingham Trent University) published in WorkingUSA Volume13 Issue 3 (September 2010)

It could be argued that, as in many Western countries, there is the disappearance of the strike in increasingly mature employment relations. At a political level, the election of a coalition Conservative–Liberal Democrat government might enhance this image of growing consensus. However, challenging the features that might account for the decline of the strike, a number of current disputes in the UK are examined. Particular attention is given to the strike and long-term conflicts at British Airways (BA). The strike by the BA cabin crew indicates the perseverance of traditional employment relations in privatised industry. It also indicates the use of the legal system by employers to frustrate the workers and trade unions’ right to take strike action through implementation of draconian rule. Conclusions are indicated on the possibility of UK workers and trade unions taking militant action against public sector cuts similar to that already taken in Ireland, Greece and Spain.

Lifelong learning across cultures: ...

an examination of learning provision for a particularly disadvantaged group

by James Ogunleye published in International Journal of Intercultural Information Management Volume 2 Number 2 (2010)

This paper examines adult learning in the context of the European Union lifelong learning policy agenda, an agenda that places an emphasis on promoting social inclusion and strengthening community cohesion and inclusive citizenship. The paper examines the policy context of lifelong learning at European level and the extent to which it feeds into policy framework at the national level. The paper also examines lifelong learning provision – programmes or courses – for adult learners with long-term mental illness, defined in this context as people who have been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder and who are unemployed.
The work reported in this paper is based on the documentary/content analyses of the European Union’s policy papers including heads of states and governments/council of ministers’ communiques on lifelong learning and on the review of literature on lifelong learning courses and programmes across Europe – with specific reference to eight European countries where the EMILIA project has demonstration sites.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Growing pains: population and sustainability in the UK

a publication from Forum for the Future to which I was pointed by Skills Development Scotland

Executive summary
Population as a discussion topic is off-limits for most UK politicians, in a way that plays into the hands of illiberal and xenophobic organisations.
But it should be possible to have an intelligent and sensitive debate about one of the most important issues of our time. This paper, the result of research and many conversations, is our attempt to stimulate such a debate about population in the UK and beyond, and to present the issue of population growth as essentially linked to the goal of sustainable development.
The UK population is projected to grow at its fastest rate since the post-war “baby boom”, increasing from 61.4 million now to 70.6 million in 2030. According to the projections, growth will be driven in part through natural change – more people being born than dying – and also through net inward migration – more people arriving in the UK than leaving.
The growth will be uneven across the country, with faster rates in central and southern England and slower rates in northern England and Scotland. This makes the UK part of the coming global increase in population, albeit at a lower rate of growth: in the time it takes the UK to increase in population by 16%, countries in sub-Saharan Africa will grow by over 50%.

Growth in the UK population will have wide-ranging impacts
There are both costs and benefits. A further 9 million people by 2030 will increase pressures on public services, infrastructure and the natural environment, requiring thorough long-term planning. The pressure will be worse in certain areas, depending on where people choose to live.
On the other hand, population growth increases the number of economically active people and can help the UK continue to be a vibrant, multicultural society.
Ultimately however, it is impossible to see how population growth – globally or in the UK – can continue forever. Social and economic models that rely on this cycle are doomed to fail eventually and so, at some point, we will have to come up with alternative models.
In this paper, we don’t go so far as to suggest what that alternative model is, but from our exploration of the topic it became clear that there were several benefits to considering population growth through the prism of sustainability. We try to show the points of leverage for a sustainable approach to population. Using the I=PxAxT equation first developed by Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren – in which impact “I” is a factor of population “P”, affluence “A”and technology “T” – we show that efficiency of systems must be increased through deployment of new technologies and better, more integrated planning; consumption must be reduced by focusing on well-being and quality of life; and population growth can be constrained, primarily through more effective family planning.
We found no argument that doing all of this would be anything but difficult. But we were able to distil from our research and our discussions seven suggestions on how to start this shift. They are:
  1. Plan for what’s coming
    All major public infrastructure bodies and service providers should carry out detailed planning for the impacts of continued population growth.
  2. Use what we have more efficiently
    Many of the things we need to do to live more sustainably in the UK, such as using energy and water more efficiently, also help us to accommodate rising numbers of people.
  3. Rethink “growth”
    We need urgently to develop new ways of evaluating the success of our economy that point towards increasing human well-being and quality of life.
  4. Develop new attitudes to ageing
    We should value the contribution that older people can make to society, and adopt a more flexible approach to family, work and education throughout people’s lives.
  5. Enhance family planning
    We can improve targeted education and make contraception more easily available in the UK and globally.
  6. Hold an objective discussion on immigration
    We need to understand the value immigration makes to the UK economy at the same time as seeing it in a global context.
  7. Have an open and sensible debate
    We need policy-makers to address population head-on, not ignore it because it is too controversial.
Hazel’s comment
Converting that from PDF into Word and then removing all the formatting code that remains, even
after saving as text only, felt like a marathon!
I hope you think the end result was worth it.
Read the whole thing (20pp PDF) at

Even the pound shops are closing down

via Blogs - New Start Magazine Online by Neil McInroy

This article is provided courtesy of the blogs feed at

Economic thinking and economic development are chronically poor in considering specific local places and the social and environmental challenges they face.

We knew this before the recession, but now its becoming much more serious. This was clear to me last week when an experienced local council official said to me: “Neil, it’s grim out there, it’s as bad as I have seen it. Even the pound shops are closing down”.

The “even” in the above statement reveals the economic place story behind these closures. The local service economy and its febrile relationship to what local people need had reached the end game. It was bad before the recession, but now the last vestiges and rump of consumer demand for those bargains is insufficient to warrant the pound shop.

The economy of that place, buoyed up by public sector largesse, property boom, financial services and credit, was self-serving not place serving. It’s now spiralled downwards and collapsed. Place and social life is now left to pick up the pieces of empty shops and decay.

Long before we had pound shops, “bond vigilantes”, or casino capitalism, or even economic textbooks, we had economic thinking which did not make the artificial distinction between the “economy”, “place” and “society”. The 18th century enlightenment and its flourishing and fusion of arts, science, technology and government, produced thinkers such as Adam Smith, who, while acclaimed as one of the first economists, was actually just a plain old philosopher, trying to understand the world from 18th century Edinburgh, unpicking the moral obligations and ties around places, people, traders and markets.

Adam Smith would no doubt have thought it ridiculous and absurd, to attempt to understand a local economy or markets without firstly thinking about people, morality and society more generally.

So, fast forward 300 years. An economic crisis – and still economics and economic development are a world of abstract modelling, numbers, or understood through mathematical charts. It’s a world where BBC commissioned research, say Mansfield and Burnley [and lots of other places too], lacks resilience, because the (economic) data tells us so! This is conducted without any consideration of the entrepreneurial energy and untapped human capital, which abounds in these and in every other place.

We need an enlightenment for the 21st century. A new economic literacy, which rejects this half-cocked thinking and one-sided understanding.

Of course, traditional economic development activities like inward investment etc are important, but so is the essence of place, the people, social capital assets and local demand. We need economic development thinking which understands, cares for and serves the place and the people.

Hazel’s comment:
Common sense. there doesn’t seem to be a lot of it about these days.

Carers Credit

Carers Credit, the National Insurance Credit which has been available since April this year, is not being claimed by over a quarter of a million people who could claim the benefit.
Carers Credit is for working age people who are looking after one or more disabled people for 20 or more hours a week. The money is not a cash benefit – it is a credit that will help carers to protect their future State Pension entitlement when they are not working or when their earnings are low. To be eligible for the Carers Credit, the person or people being cared for must either, be receiving an appropriate disability benefit or a certificate must be supplied which has been certified by a Health or Social Care professional and confirms the level of care that is provided is required.
The figures given by Directgov this month advise that there are currently fewer than 1,000 people getting this Credit.
If you think you can claim this Credit or know someone who also may be entitled call either 0845 608 4321 (Caring for Someone Section of Directgov) or call your local carers UK branch.

Thanks to Angela Gifford of Able Community Care.

0 non-work-related items that I found fun or interesting

Please note that, due to the vagaries of wireless and people severing cables causing parts of Hemel Hempstead to be without both telephone and Internet, this trivia post is not the weekend just gone but the one before!

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
History of cities: Londoners have long been willing to live in filth. Orientals wasted time building sanitation systems and bathing, but Brits preferred making money... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
A bogus history of Afghanistan is not a good foundation for making policy to deal with the country's problems, says Christian Caryl... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The subatomic world is the perfect arena for imaginative theory and sheer fantasy. Jeremy Bernstein is a man who knows the difference... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
As Twilight shows, not all that girls like is good art – or good feminism. But the backlash against Twilight should matter to feminists, even as they shudder... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate “It is a truth universally acknowledged...” tells us something about Jane Austen’s temper and her times. Her world was one where there really was universal truth... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Saddam Hussein drained the wetlands of southern Iraq to punish the Marsh Arabs. Now a courageous U.S. Iraqi wants to restore the marshes... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Women in the 20th century moved toward more autonomy, self-confidence, skills, and income, with many individuals caught in the confusion... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Only the peer reviewed need apply. Once upon a time, "peer reviewed" meant that research was validly arrived at, not fabricated. Today it often means hewing to the party line... more

Friday Fun: Go Retro with Pacman via the How-To Geek by Mysticgeek
If you are old as I am you remember how exciting it was when Pacman was introduced and the ensuing frenzy that accompanied it. Today for Friday Fun we take a trip down memory lane and relive some some cool Pac-man games.
This Flash version of the original Pacman is a lot of fun and is fairly close to the original.
Play Flash Pacman
MS Pacman was always my favorite and now you can play it without a pocket full of quarters. Play Original Ms. Pacman
Have you ever wanted to be one of the ghosts? Here you can in Anti-Pacman.
Play Anti-Pacman

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Old English was an elegant tongue, yet one that mirrored the brutality of its times. The Dictionary of Old English is tying it all together... more

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Information Systems Management

To say that I’m confused by the latest blog postings from the Taylor & Francis group would be the understatement of the year.

In one long list I got, in this order:
  1. Volume 27 Issue 1 December 2010
  2. Volume 27 Issue 3 June 2010
  3. Volume 27 Issue 2 March 2010
  4. Volume 26 Issue 1 December 2009
  5. Volume 26 Issue 4 September 2009
I thought I was going mad but it's not me – honest!!