Sunday, 31 July 2011

Working with business functions: …

How occupational groups provide insight in Labour Force Survey statistics
A paper from the “Work and Life Quality in New and Growing Jobs” (walqing) project of the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission Research Area by Sem Vanderkerckhove and Monique Ramioul (HIVA-K.U.Leuven)

Introduction (first paragraph)

The overall objective of the WALQING project is to map employment growth and to measure the quality of the new jobs in an EU comparative perspective.

A major challenge is to take account of the reality that job creation (and destruction) as exhibited in macro-economic statistics hides substantial employment shifts beneath the surface of the national picture. And even sector employment figures do not do justice to the structural changes in the job compositions within the firms of which these sectors are composed.

Economic change and the re-organisation of work today can only be understood fully when one takes into account a simultaneous decomposition and recomposition of sectors, organisations and labour processes. Hence, we need a method to investigate structural employment change not only between sectors and nations, but also within sectors. To do so in international comparative analysis makes the endeavour all the more complex.

Over time, national bureaux for statistics or research institutes have been converging and data gathering has been internationalised (Huws, 2006). The possibilities for advanced research, such as analyses of time series and comparative studies, are vast. At the same time, the more data becomes available, the more questions and complications arise.

We now face a situation where one of the largest surveys in the world, the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS), is stretched to its limits. Over time, cracks appear in the data, with politically inspired changes, methodological interventions and new countries joining the European Union.

Full document (PDF 46pp)

New book on information literacy

Pope, A. and Walton, G. (Eds) (2011)

Information literacy: infiltrating the agenda, challenging minds

Oxford: Chandos Publishing. ISBN-10: 1843346109; ISBN-13: 978-1843346104

Includes chapters by John Crawford, Bob Glass, Nancy Graham, Christine Irving, Gareth Johnson, and Andrew Whitworth, Kirsty Baker, Katharine Reedy, Jillian Griffiths, Keith Puttick, Ben Scoble and Chris Wakeman.

The Amazon page is here.

Thanks to Sheila Webber of the Information Literacy Weblog

How to Not Be Unemployed

A really interesting take on the unemployment issue, with some of which I agree! Particularly the first point about it being all in your head. That is, as I know you will realise, simplification but it is important for people (you, your clients, whomever) to realise that the first battle to be won is a mental one. You are not on the scrap heap!

If 230 people apply for one job and they all follow the same formula for how to write a CV and covering letter, what to wear if granted an interview, how to answer interview questions then the recruiter is going to have to stick a pin in the list (I’ve been on both sides of this divide so I know what it feels like).

How to Not Be Unemployed by Sussanah Breslin in published in Forbes Magazine

Does LibQUAL+TM account for student loyalty to a university college library?

an article by Dr Erik Nesset and Prof Øyvind Helgesen (Aalesund University College, Norway) published in Quality Assurance in Education (Volume 19 Issue 4 (2011))


The purpose is to find out whether LibQUAL+TM can account for student loyalty to the library of an institution of higher education. LibQUAL+TM is a marketing tool that is used to measure perceived service quality of libraries, and the present analysis aims at validating this service quality instrument within a more comprehensive theoretical satisfaction-image-loyalty framework.
The data source is a survey among students at the bachelor’s level of a university college in Norway. The analysis is based on structural equation modelling.
The three LibQUAL drivers (information control, affect of service and library as a place) account for 85 per cent of the variation in student loyalty.
Research limitations/implications
This research has been applied to a specific university college. The research should be expanded to other institutions offering higher education.
Practical implications
The study gives practical insight to managers regarding drivers of student loyalty for decision-making and strategic control. The library as a place has the greatest impact on loyalty in this study.
Relationship marketing and management have become increasingly important for higher education managers. By identifying drivers of student loyalty regarding image building and satisfaction creation, and by allocating resources to activities that are important for students regarding these two processes, managers may obtain increased student retention, thus helping to ensure future public funding.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

English language courses will deliver better deal for learners and the taxpayer

So, before I bring you press release from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, let me just ask you “What the hell was wrong with the English language courses that were available and now aren’t?”

Skills Minister John Hayes pledged (on 18 July) to provide more effective, targeted help for people who face barriers to learning the English language skills communities need.
Following the publication of an equality impact assessment of provision for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training, which he ordered, Minister Hayes announced that BIS will work in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on developing new forms of support for those who need informal, community-based learning of English.

Full report English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Equality Impact Assessment – URN 11/1045 (PDF 28pp)

Labour market report – Scotland

Bank of Scotland Report on Jobs was published on 19 July 2011

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment & Sustainable Growth John Swinney said:
"The report for June is the third month in a row that the Scottish labour market has outperformed the UK as a whole - reflecting the labour market figures published last week showing employment in Scotland rising and unemployment falling at seven-times the rate as in the rest of the UK - but the survey also shows that there can be absolutely no grounds for complacency.
"More needs to be done to support jobs, secure investment and boost economic activity across Scotland - and the report reinforces the need for a Plan B or flexibility from the UK Government in order to strengthen growth and recovery.
"We now have lower unemployment, higher employment, and a lower rate of economic inactivity in Scotland than the UK as a whole - and the lowest joblessness rate in Scotland for 18 months, with the eighth consecutive reported fall. And last week's PMI survey showed Scotland's private sector expanding for the sixth consecutive month in June.
"The economic policy of the Scottish Government is continuing to create and safeguard jobs across our communities – with a series of positive employment initiatives in recent weeks, including from Gamesa, AWS Osean Energy, Ceridian, State Street, the plans for the Climate Change Centre at Edinburgh University, and Aquamarine Power’s new Oyster wave energy converter unveiled at Methil last week.
"We have prioritised the role of capital investment as a key driver of recovery, and workforce jobs in construction have increased by 11.6 per cent in Scotland in the year to March, compared to a 0.2 per cent fall across the UK as a whole.
"However, with greater access to the key levers of economic growth, such as corporation tax and borrowing powers, we could do more to enhance investment and jobs in the Scottish economy, and give Scotland a major competitive advantage."

Full publication (PDF 4pp)

Fit for purpose? …

Welfare reform and challenges for health and labour market policy in the UK

an article by Colin Lindsay and Donald Houston published in Environment and Planning A (Volume 43 Number 3 (March 2011))

In the UK, as in some other EU states, the focus of recent welfare reforms has switched from those on unemployment benefits to those receiving sickness/incapacity benefits (IBs), reflecting concerns around the large numbers falling into the this last group. The Labour government elected in 1997 introduced a range of measures to activate those on IBs, setting a target of a one million reduction in the number of claimants by the end of 2015. The Conservative Party similarly came to acknowledge that high levels of IB claiming represented a problem of ‘unemployment hidden as sickness’, and in coalition now proposes even more aggressive supply-side strategies. This paper provides an extensive review of the most recent evidence to identify factors driving the rise in the number of people claiming IBs and, in light of this analysis, assesses whether current policy is fit for purpose. An important conclusion is that any national ‘one-size fits all’ supply-side policy response is blind to the distinctive geography of receipt of IBs and the complex combination of factors that leave some people trapped on these benefits.

Hazel’s comment:
What a place to find an article of this importance to the careers and advice community!!

Web of Deception: Misinformation on the Internet

a book review by Christopher Brown-Syed (Seneca College, Toronto and editor of Library & Archival Security)

This book edited by Anne P Mintz is, as Brown-Syed admits, a relatively older book by Internet standards having been published in 2002. Nine years is a long time but:
Though written before the ascendancy of blogs, Wikis, and social networking, this book is both entertaining and useful because though media may change, fraud techniques and motives have not varied over millennia and will likely remain constant.
Published by CyberAge Books, 275pp., illus. ISBN: 091-096-560-9 List price $24.95

On  for £18.89

Friday, 29 July 2011

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

Cartoon Library & Museum via Librarians’ Internet Index: New This Week
Website for this library and museum that houses “more than 400,000 original works of [cartoon] art”. Features a description of major collections (and browsable lists of clipping file subjects and topics), a cartoon image database with selected scanned images from the collection, digital albums (such as of Lyonel Feininger's 1906 comic strip and Nell Brinkley's “Brinkley Girls&amp”), digital exhibits, and related material.
From The Ohio State University Libraries.

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Did our Neolithic ancestors start to grow crops so they could bake bread? Perhaps not: maybe the real point of agriculture was beer...more and more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Forgive everybody everything. So say the self-help gurus. Maybe they’re right. But should forgiveness be reduced to something passive and empty, a sanctimonious way of simply moving on?...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Is it a gift from God? From innate human reason? Moral naturalists take a different approach, says David Brooks...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The voracious scavenging of vultures has long helped prevent the spread of disease in India. But at the carcass dump on the outskirts of Bikaner, the sky is empty...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
If God were a gardener, what kind of garden would he cultivate? How, given the garden, might we tell the difference between his presence and his absence? Anthony Gottlieb wonders... more

Walhalla is a department store
via Eurozine articles by Thomas Lenz
When they emerged in imperial Germany, department stores were admired as technological achievements yet feared for their corrosive effect on the state. This was typical of the “reactionary modernity” that went on to form the core of Nazism, writes Thomas Lenz.
More (sorry, German only available for the full article and auto-translation doesn’t read well to me).

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The collapse of the Soviet Union was startling, but today it's clear that Russia is inching toward another perestroika moment... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Harun Yahya's media empire spans the Muslim world. His message is clear and influential: Darwinism is a "satanic plot"... more
When Europe was in the Dark Ages Arabic/Muslim science flourished. Why the reversal today?

via Red Ferret Journal
Beautifully crafted, addictively entertaining, tremendous fun. What more do you need to know? To play – type in long words as fast as you can, to shoot down nasty spiders intent on doing you harm. Fab.[Via Metafilter]

The Statistics Newsletter:

for the extended OECD statistical network
Issue No. 52, July 2011

In this issue:

  • The OECD Better Life Initiative
    Romina Boarini, Measuring Well-being and Progress, OECD Statistics Directorate
  • The Environmental Goods and Services Sector (EGSS): A New approach to the Environment Industry
    Eva Milota, Statistics Austria
  • Francisco Labbé – The New National Director
    Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas (INE) (Chile)
  • Backcasting Using Conversion Matrices: Towards a Tool for Error Estimation
    Ignacio Arbués, Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) (Spain)
  • Statistics Estonia Celebrates its 90th Anniversary
  • Polish EU Presidency
    Central Statistical Office of Poland, Presidency Team
  • Recent publications
Full document (PDF 20pp)

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Business and Social Entrepreneurs in the UK: gender, context and commitment

an article by Dr Jonathan Levie and Prof. Mark Hart (Aston Business School) published in International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship (Volume 3 Issue 3 (2011))


What sort of people become social entrepreneurs, and in what way do they differ from business entrepreneurs? More importantly, in what socio-economic context are entrepreneurial individuals more likely to become social than business entrepreneurs? These questions are important for policy because there has been a shift from direct to indirect delivery of many public services in the UK, requiring a professional approach to social enterprise.
Evidence is presented from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) UK survey based upon a representative sample of around 21,000 adults aged between 16 and 64 years interviewed in 2009. We use logistic multivariate regression techniques to identify differences between business and social entrepreneurs in demographic characteristics, effort, aspiration, use of resources, industry choice, deprivation and organisational structure.
The results show that the odds of an early-stage entrepreneur being a social rather than a business entrepreneur are reduced if they are from an ethnic minority, if they work 10 hours or more per week on the venture, and if they have a family business background, while they are increased if they have higher levels of education and if they are a settled in-migrant to their area. While women social entrepreneurs are more likely than business entrepreneurs to be women, this is due to gender-based differences in time commitment to the venture. In addition, the more deprived the community they live in, the more likely women entrepreneurs are to be social than business entrepreneurs. However, this does not hold in the most deprived areas where we argue civic society is weakest and therefore not conducive to support any form of entrepreneurial endeavour based on community engagement.
Our findings suggest that women may be motivated to become social entrepreneurs by a desire to improve the socio-economic environment of the community in which they live and see social enterprise creation as an appropriate vehicle with which to address local problems.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

10 useless items which may interest you as much as they did me

My Party Dress: 1939
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
My Party Dress: 1939
February 1939
“Child of white migrant worker ironing in tent camp near Harlingen, Texas”
35mm negative by Russell Lee for the FSA
View original post


Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Yelp, Amazon, and the like have upended the idea of critical authority. On those fronts now seesaws the battle for the future of taste and expertise… more


The men who designed space colonies
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
If your mental image of futuristic human colonies in space involves tubular ships, rolling hills, and a population seemingly plucked from a cocktail party in Sausalito in 1972, chances are good that you’ve been influenced by the art of Rick Guidice and Don Davis – illustrators commissioned by NASA to envision human homes among the stars.
At, Veronique Greenwood writes about these artists and the lasting impact they’ve had on science and science fiction.


How the Impressionists Dressed for Success
via Big Think by Bob Duggan
“The latest fashion… is absolutely necessary for a painting,” artist Édouard Manet announced in 1881. “It’s what matters most.” When most people think of Impressionism, they may think of flowers, haystacks, water lilies, dancers, and even nude bathers, but rarely of haute couture caught on canvas ...
continue reading


Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Diederik Stapel’s psychology experiments produced eye-opening results – all fabricated, it turns out. “It was a quest for beauty instead of the truth”… more


History of Swing Dancing
Written by Lori Heikkila
The history of swing dates back to the 1920s, where the black community, while dancing to contemporary Jazz music, discovered the Charleston and the Lindy Hop.
On March 26, 1926, the Savoy Ballroom opened its doors in New York. The Savoy was an immediate success with its block-long dance floor and a raised double bandstand. Nightly dancing attracted most of the best dancers in the New York area. Stimulated by the presence of great dancers and the best black bands, music at the Savoy was largely Swinging Jazz.
One evening in 1927, following Lindbergh's flight to Paris, a local dance enthusiast named "Shorty George" Snowden was watching some of the dancing couples. A newspaper reporter asked him what dance they were doing, and it just so happened that there was a newspaper with an article about Lindbergh's flight sitting on the bench next to them. The title of the article read, "Lindy Hops The Atlantic," and George just sort of read that and said, "Lindy Hop" and the name stuck.
Continue reading


E. Nesbit: Queen of Children’s Literature
via Pages & Proofs by Richard Davies

Edith (E.) Nesbit was the queen of children’s literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her best-known work is The Railway Children (1906), a story of three children trying to prove the innocence of their father, who is falsely imprisoned for espionage.
Nesbit’s writing went beyond children’s books to adult novels, political writing, and even poetry. She is a talent not to be missed.
Read on for more about E. Nesbit


Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Oscar Wilde in America. Though little known when he arrived, he was supremely confident. “  have nothing to declare except my genius"… more


Fast-Acting Gel Stops Bleeding “Instantly”
via Big Think by Kecia Lynn
Joe Landolina, a 20-year-old NYU student, has created a substance called Veti-Gel that, when applied to an open wound, stops bleeding and starts the healing process almost instantaneously.
Continue reading


The end of the European Dream
What future for Europe's constrained democracy?
Stefan Auer
A political culture of total optimism has obscured one of the paradoxes of European unity: a constrained democracy, borne out of the experience of the devastating wars in the first half of the twentieth century, and aimed at suppressing pernicious populist instincts, has now become the source of new resentment. Coupled with the unintended consequences of the single currency, these are exceptional times indeed. And the challenges awaiting democracy are not about to get any easier, according to Stefan Auer.
Continue reading from Eurozine

Population ageing and labour markets

an article by Anna Cristina D'Addio, Mark Keese and Edward Whitehouse (Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD) published in Oxford Review of Economic Policy (Volume 26 Number 4 (Winter 2010)


In the face of rapid population ageing, the long-run fall in effective retirement ages in most OECD countries needs to be reversed. There are some positive signs that this is beginning to happen, but early exit from the labour force, i.e. well before official old-age pension ages, still remains a very common phenomenon in OECD countries. In this paper we first compare recent trends in the labour situation of older workers across OECD countries. This is followed by a discussion of supply-side and demand-side factors that have been driving these trends. In particular, new evidence is presented on incentives to retire that are embedded in pension systems. We conclude that recent reforms in most countries in this area are working in the direction of encouraging later retirement, although in a few countries there are still substantial incentives to stop working early. We then examine to what extent there are barriers on the demand side which may also be discouraging work at an older age such as age discrimination, seniority rules in wage setting, low training participation and employment protection rules. We conclude that countries have also begun to tackle these barriers as well. Nevertheless, while considerable pension reform has undoubtedly strengthened incentives to continue working at an older age, further action is still required on the demand side to ensure that those older workers who wish to work longer can do so.

Employment, Hours of Work and the Optimal Taxation of Low Income Families

This discussion paper (IZA DP No. 5745) by Richard Blundell (University College London) and Andrew Shephard (Princeton University) was published in May 2011


The optimal design of low income support is examined using a structural labour supply model. The approach incorporates unobserved heterogeneity, fixed costs of work, childcare costs and the detailed non-convexities of the tax and transfer system. The analysis considers purely Pareto improving reforms and also optimal design under social welfare functions with different degrees of inequality aversion. We explore the gains from tagging and also examine the case for the use of hours-contingent payments. Using the tax schedule for lone parents in the UK as our policy environment, the results point to a reformed non-linear tax schedule with tax credits only optimal for low earners. The results also suggest a welfare improving role for tagging according to child age and for hours-contingent payments, although the case for the latter is mitigated when hours cannot be monitored or recorded accurately by the tax authorities.

Full paper (PDF 48pp) provides some interesting charts and graphs and some complex statistical formulae (which I personally struggled with!)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

SMEs in the crisis: …

Employment, industrial relations and local partnership

This report (written and published by EIRO, European Industrial Relations Observatory On-line) examines the situation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the actions of governments and the social partners, the extent of social dialogue in SMEs, including any trends and new initiatives, and the role of local partnership as a means of maintaining employment levels during the recent economic crisis. More specifically, it examines the impact of the crisis on SMEs. It looks at a range of government initiatives aimed at helping SMEs to survive the crisis, in addition to the main social partner actions to help SMEs.

The study was compiled on the basis of individual national reports submitted by the EIRO correspondents. The text of each of these national reports is available below. The reports have not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The national reports were drawn up in response to a questionnaire and should be read in conjunction with it.

Comparative study (PDF 50pp) see also the Executive Summary (PDF 2pp – dark blue text on pale blue background!)

Benchmarking the English school system against the best in the world

 A research paper by Jonathan Clifton (Research Fellow at IPPR)

This paper explores the principles behind international benchmarking, how it is being carried out in different countries, what factors policymakers need to take into account when introducing benchmarks, and some potential pitfalls that they need to be aware of.

While the threat of foreign competition has long been used to justify education reforms, the use of international comparisons has reached something of a crescendo in recent years. In an attempt to improve their school systems, policymakers are increasingly turning to other countries for inspiration and ideas.

The interest in using international benchmarks to drive improvement has the potential to move debates beyond ‘shock reactions’ to our rank position in league tables. But it also raises fundamental questions about the purpose and design of international assessments, and how they can be used in a progressive way that reflects their limitations.

Full report (PDF 16pp)

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

Tiny statue from the third century CE via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
This is believed to be a Roman boxer from 1,800 years ago. Well, a teeny marble bust of a boxer anyway. Archaeologists found the statue, just six centimeters tall, in Jerusalem’s City of David. 1,800-year-old marble head unearthed in Israel

Time Magazine
Is a Bookless Library Still a Library?
I think the answer is a resounding “YES” but how does Tim Newcomb answer his own question?

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The government of India is gathering biometric data on its 1.2 billion citizens. But there’s a hitch: The fingerprints of peasants are unreadable after years of manual work...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What are books good for? Every book by a single author is a particular performance, a story told as only one storyteller could recount it... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
When biologists talk of animal altruism, self-sacrifice, kindness, murder, slavery, or warfare, they are actually using their own technical vocabulary... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Financing the welfare state depends critically on population increase. That a growing nation is a kind of Ponzi scheme was a fine idea when people still thought the Baby Boom would go on forever... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Heidegger was undoubtedly a genius. You can tell he was a genius because his philosophy is so hard to grasp... more

Friday Fun: Compulse via the How-To Geek by Mysticgeek
Today we take a look at physics based game called Compulse.
Guide the ball to the goal by using Compulse directional tiles. There is really not any way to “win” as you can use as many or few tiles as you want. Once you complete a level you can go to the next level, try the same level again for a better score, and watch the events again via replay. As you progress up the levels the challenges get more difficult. This is an very casual game and allows you to easily pass the time until the bell rings.
Play Compulse at the How-To Geek Arcade

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Adam Smith's great book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, is a global manifesto for the interdependent world in which we live. Amartya Sen explains why... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Fashions in social explanation come and go, but there remains no substitute for game theory in modelling human behaviour... more

Monday, 25 July 2011

The Hourglass and the Escalator …

Labour market change and mobility

a research report by Paul Sissons published by The Work Foundation July 2011

Executive summary (headline items only for space considerations)

The past decade has been a period of considerable change in the labour market, in particular in the latter years when the economy has experienced recession and emerging recovery. Over the longer-term, as the economy has been increasingly based on knowledge rather than routine production, new jobs have been created in large numbers in high-skill, high-wage professional and managerial occupations. Yet the last decade has also seen growth in lower wage service occupations, combined with a reduction in middle-wage occupations, leading to concerns of employment polarisation. In short, there appears to be a gradual hollowing-out of the labour 

The process of labour market change and polarisation has tended to be experienced differently by men and women.

However, changes in the labour market have not resulted in the sharp increases in wage inequality which were seen in the 1980s and 1990s.

The recent recession was not the white-collar recession that many commentators were predicting.

The least skilled have suffered in the recession as people with more skills ‘bump-down’ in the labour market.

One of the potentially damaging aspects of growing polarisation in the labour market is that it may create additional barriers to earnings mobility.

In order to support in-work progression for low earners, policy-makers should:
  • Identify ways to improve and upgrade service sector employment.
  • Work with employers, sector skills councils and training providers to develop career ladders.
  • Ensure good quality careers advice is available. 
  • Promote lifelong learning. 
Recent changes in the labour market have also created some specific policy needs going forward:
  • Facilitate the sector swap.
  • Re-skill and re-train. 
Hazel’s comment:
I’m getting tired, very tired, of reading research reports which say “more and better careers advice” and “lifelong learning is key to economic development”.
Yes, of course, careers advice is key, yes we must have more opportunities for people to learn outside of the formal education system.
My frustration is that I’ve been reading these reports, or similar research findings, for nearly thirty years.
Back then people such as Linda Butler and John Allred were saying it. Why, if these areas of development are so important are we still asking for better guidance, more lifelong learning?

All things being equal? …

Equality and diversity in careers education, information, advice and guidance

a report by Jo Hutchinson, Heather Rolfe, Nicki Moore, Simon Bysshe and Kieran Bentley (University of Derby and National Institute of Economic and Social Research)

A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission looking at careers education and guidance shows there is an aspiration gap for some young people and identifies specific barriers facing different groups.

The report provides strong evidence that careers education and guidance affects the aspirations, subject, career choices and future pay and progression for different groups of young people.

The Commission's review of equality "How Fair is Britain?" (various formats including video overview) demonstrated that one of the drivers for positive equality outcomes is good quality careers education and guidance.

But evidence in this new report shows that the influence of careers education and guidance is weak at present.
It shows that provision varies due to confusing requirements, weak inspection and insufficient teacher training.

The report indicates that careers education and guidance is failing some young people, particularly disabled people, women and ethnic minorities, either because it doesn't meet their needs or does not effectively challenge stereotypical thinking. As a result, some industries have skills shortages, for example through women not choosing to study science, technology, engineering or maths subjects.

It says that more work needs to be done to ensure that the high aspirations evident among so many young people, particularly those from ethnic minorities, are not dampened by fear of discrimination and by disadvantage.

The report recommends that:
  • schools be required to ensure all students get careers education that raises aspirations and addresses equality issues;
  • career education should start in primary school to tackle inequalities;
  • the education sector works closer with parents and with businesses, so that students have a genuine idea of the career paths available to them;
  • careers education and guidance is inspected, so that progress can be properly monitored and its effectiveness measured against choices, progression and post-school destinations for different groups.
These recommendations mirror those made by the Commission in its submission to the Government on the Education Bill.

Alan Christie, Director of Policy, for the Commission said:
“Good careers and education guidance, built on an understanding of different and specific needs, can be influential in changing lives. Raising the ambitions and skills of young people could also help work places recruit from a wider pool of talent. Schools should have statutory duty to secure independent, impartial careers support for pupils, as in the Education Bill, but we also want there to be a requirement to challenge stereotypes and raise aspirations for different groups of pupils.”

All things being equal? Equality and Diversity in careers education, information, advice and guidance (PDF 173pp)

Read the Commission's parliamentary briefing on the Education Bill

Career guidance policies: global dynamics, local resonances

an iCeGS Occasional Paper by Ronald E Sultana (Professor of Educational Sociology and Comparative Education, University of Malta)


This paper considers the spate of reviews of career guidance that have taken place since the year 2000, and which were commissioned by such supranational entities as the OECD and various agencies and directorates of the European Commission. The paper argues that this series of overlapping comparative studies – involving 55 countries in all – constitutes a powerful discursive field which has helped to frame career guidance in particular ways, and that it has led to opportunities for policy lending and policy borrowing on an unprecedented scale. The paper examines the dynamics of such policy learning, identifying some of its potential motives as well as key mechanisms by which transfers take place through ‘push’ and ‘pull’ forces. It then goes on to raise a series of questions regarding the viability of deterritorialized policy exchange, noting that social practices such as career guidance are inscribed in a particular complex of values, meanings, and significations that are tightly coupled to the ecological climate in which they thrive. Two case studies – one focusing on career guidance in small states, the other on career guidance in Arab countries – are presented in order to illustrate the way trans-national, globalised agendas are reconfigured and reinterpreted at the local level. The paper concludes by reflecting on the ethical and epistemological responsibilities that need to be confronted by ‘boundary persons’ who mediate between the global and the local.

Full report (PDF 13pp A4 landscape folds to A5 booklet)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

What does ‘career’ mean to people in their 60th year? …

Reflections, projections and interpretations by people born in the late 1940s

A research study by Margaret Christopoulos and Valerie Bromage published by International Centre for Guidance Studies, University of Derby and TAEN – The Age and Employment Network


This is a qualitative study based on interviews with 22 people born in 1948 and 1949. The interviewees had had employment experience in 37 occupations and some were employed full-time, some part-time and others retired at the time of interview. The aim of the research was to explore what ‘career’ means to people approaching 60, but also to identify distinctive factors of the careers of this age group, if any. The participants considered their own careers, the careers of people older and younger than themselves and the career issues of members of the opposite gender. They discussed their individual theories about how people make career choices and they also talked through the best and worst parts of their careers.

The career discussions of these 22 people illuminate some of the major occupational changes in the last half century in the UK. Gender has significantly affected the attitudes, expectations and career paths of this group of people born in the late 1940s in the UK. Being female has impeded the access to some careers and employment opportunities. Some members of this group felt that being female is an obstacle to career progression, even if a maternity break was not taken. Being female restricted access to some occupations (like medicine) and restricted career progression, even in the case of an interviewee whose husband fulfilled the house husband role in the 1970s, finding access to career ladders harder and taking longer for women of this age than men. Only two interviewees intended to continue working full time for the next few years. There was a perception of relief to have reached 60 among some interviewees and be able to retire soon, or reduce paid work. Three of those employed mentioned too much pressure at work, and two of those who had already retired mentioned work related stress as a contributory factor to their retirement. Many of the interviewees were at the pinnacle of their career and had not been under specific pressure to retire or reduce their working week. This may indicate a hidden ‘brain drain’, a loss to the economy of much needed knowhow in some sectors, particularly the public sector.

The interviewees gave their own theories about how people choose careers, and the views they articulated fitted in well with career theories – talent matching, developmentalism, opportunity and social structure. Several of them adhered to the theories related to Chance and Chaos, with several of them feeling that their careers had just ‘happened’.

Most members of this group considered that they had fared better than their older siblings in terms of having a wider range of occupations available to choose from but also they had found it easy to get a job throughout their working life – that despite many of them having experienced redundancy. Some felt that their career ‘lot’ was easier than their younger siblings – as younger siblings would have experienced the impact of the 1980s recessions at the wrong time of their career, when they were starting in their career. Young sisters also were thought to be under more pressure to remain in work rather than take maternity leave. Maybe the 1948/9ers could be described as the ‘never had it so good’ generation. Many interviewees talked about the opportunities that had opened up to them because of the grants system, the expanding NHS and four or five decades of relative economic prosperity, without the shadow of wars.

Full report (PDF 90pp)

Stories of careers, learning and identity across the lifespan: …

Considering the future narrative of career theory

A research paper by Mary McMahon (The University of Queensland, Australia), Mark Watson (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa) and Jenny Bimrose (University of Warwick, England) who are all also at Warwick Institute for Employment Research


This paper is located within the context of the present debate about modern and post-modern career research, theory and practice. It considers the construction of career stories of individuals across the lifespan. The stories told by the children, adolescents, adult women and men illustrate a range of theoretical constructs related to career development and career construction. Importantly, these constructs are derived from both modern and post-modern career theories. This paper demonstrates that individuals’ stories provide for a rich and inclusive narrative that crosses the divide between modern and post-modern career theory. In so doing, it illustrates a possible future direction for the development of career theory.

Career stories are contextually located within the lives of individuals. Beginning in early childhood, career stories represent a recursiveness (ongoing interaction) between life experiences and the individual’s attempts to make sense of those experiences. In essence, individuals continually seek to derive meaning from their life experiences, and their construction of stories represents the primary way in which individuals come to understand their experiences. In the telling of stories, individuals locate themselves as the primary narrator and character of their stories and in this way identity is constructed over time. Thus, storytelling represents a re-cursiveness between life experience, the construction of identity, learning, and meaning making. The agency of individuals is represented in the construction and telling of those stories and, because life is complex and multifaceted, lives are multi-storied. Thus, no single story may adequately represent the totality of an  individual’s life experience.

The following paper considers the construction of career stories of individuals across the lifespan. In so doing, it illustrates a range of theoretical constructs related to career development and career construction and suggests the need for an inclusive and comprehensive future narrative of career theory. In beginning this paper, we would like to introduce the storytellers that you will meet: Annie, Neil and Sally are all children attending middle primary school; Jake, Abbey and Justin are adolescents attending senior secondary school; and Lorraine, Sophia, Marion, Paul, Michael and John are adults who have experienced career transitions.

Full paper (PDF 17pp) published by The Institute of Career Guidance with the support of the ICG Research Committee, September 2010
ISBN: 9-780-90307-630-2

Hazel’s comment:
I saw the date on this and thought “I really can’t published this – it’s getting on for a year old” but then I remembered a recent blog post from Seth Godin which concluded that if something was important and relevant today then it would still be important and relevant tomorrow and, even more importantly from my viewpoint, if it’s new to you then it’s news.
This paper is important, relevant and new to me – it might be new to you too.

Ten trivia items which I should have published on 2nd August

Upper Lower Manhattan: 1917
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Upper Lower Manhattan: 1917
New York circa 1917
“Skyscrapers, looking north toward towers of Woolworth and Singer buildings”
Double-barreled tower in the foreground is the Adams Express Building
8x10 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co.
View original post

What a Peahen Really Watches When a Peacock Tries to Impress Her
from Wired by Greg Miller via 3 Quarks Daily

When a peacock fans his plumage and struts his stuff, it’s an impressive sight. Or so it appears to us humans. What really matters, of course, is what the female he’s trying to impress makes of it. In a new study, scientists mounted tiny eye-tracking cameras on the heads of peahens to try to get inside their minds as they watched males’ courtship displays.
Continue reading

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Against smart. We need less of TED, NPR, and the Ivies, and more punk rock, transcribed traffic reports, hunches, and intuition… more

Tiny pink Stormtrooper
via BoingBoing by Cory Doctorow

Stephanie sent this pic of a tiny pink Stormtrooper cosplayer to Fashionably Geek. They say it was a little girl in there, but that seems to be citing facts not in evidence. In any event, this kid is hella cute.
Little Girl Proves Stormtroopers Look Good In Pink [Cosplay] [Amy Ratcliffe/Fashionably Geek]

via Big Think by Sam McKerney
A paradox of selling technology in the 21st century is that it’s often more difficult to convince users that they need the latest gadget, even if that gadget is more advanced. The original iPhone was a marvel, but despite lavish improvements, each rendition somehow seems less impressive.
Continue reading

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The curious heresy of Shakespeare denial. Does historical evidence even matter to those who insist that the Bard was not the Bard?… more

Dream a Little Bigger via Walk You Home
Toshiko Horiuchi-MacAdam is a crochet artist from Japan who makes gigantic crochet installations that act as both art and playgrounds. Toshiko’s installation art, once mistaken by children for a playground, suddenly found new life and she began working on many playgrounds in Japan.
To learn more, visit Toshiko Horiuchi-MacAdam’s bio.

More pictures here

Ovid in Exile
via 3QuarksDaily
Publius Ovidius Naso invented exile the way Charles Dickens invented Christmas. Of course, the institution was there before, but it had not been given a definitive literary and cultural codification, a reference point for all subsequent experience. Exile in the ancient world was bound up in the identity of what we would call the individual with his or her community – not so much “family” in the ancestral sense of Native Americans and East Asians, but what we’ve come to think of as “the polity”, the city.
The power of exile as punishment is a construct of urban life. Exile is always exile from – and the community left behind has to remain a powerful element in the exile’s life, or else the dispossessed suffers only emigration. When an ancient was thrust into exile, he or she (yes – think of Dido) carried the City on his or her back; and the foundations of “daughter” cities traced back to the labourious expulsion from parents.
But all this was in the realm of legend, mythology, history. With Ovid, for the first time, we hear the voice of an exile in psychological and social depth – exulis hæc vox est: præbet mihi littera linguam, / et si non liceat scribere, mutus ero – “This is the voice of an exile: a letter serves as my tongue, / and if not permitted to write, I will be dumb.”
[1] Ovid would have appreciated the pun available in English translation but not to him: In Latin, littera, a letter of the alphabet, is a different word from epistula, a missive.
more from J. Kates at Harvard Review here

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Alchemy, astrology, Egyptian magic. The occult was more than pseudoscience during the Enlightenment. It promised self-transcendence… more

A lion: Joseph Paxton in the nineteenth century and today
via OUPblog by Tatiana Holway
Two hundred years ago today, on 3 August 1813, [201 years and a bit] Joseph Paxton turned ten. In a farm hand’s family of nine children, this was likely to have been a non-event. A decade after that, the day would also have come and gone like any other. At twenty, Paxton was pretty much on his own, working here and there in some outdoor capacity or other on nearby estates. While considering enrolling as an apprentice at the London Horticultural Society, the opportunity to train for an occupation as a gardener looked quite promising to a young man who otherwise had no prospects. Accepted at Chatsworth as a labourer later in 1823, Paxton was promoted to under-gardener within a couple of years. Then, after a few more months, the Duke of Devonshire proposed that he assume the post of head gardener. What this meant, apart from a fantastic break for Paxton, was that one hundred acres of pleasure grounds of one of the greatest of England’s great estates would come under the charge of a twenty-two-year-old greenhorn. The Duke, who leased land to the Horticultural Society, had happened to notice Paxton and find him agreeable. The officers of the society shrugged.
Continue reading

Career Decision-making and Career Development of Part-time Higher Education Students

A report to the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) by Claire Callender (Birkbeck, London University) and Rebecca Hopkin and David Wilkinson (National Institute of Economic and Social Research)

The study explores the career ambitions, intentions and decision-making of part-time students in the UK, based on a survey of 3,704 part-time university undergraduates from 29 institutions, studying either the first or final year of one of four subjects: engineering/technology; social sciences; law; or business and education.

The issues addressed include:
  • part-time students’ reasons for studying; 
  • part-time students’ career plans and ambitions; 
  • the careers information, advice and guidance sought by part-time students and their use of university/college career services; 
  • the costs of part-time study and employer support; 
  • government-funded financial support for part-time students; and 
  • the benefits of part-time study.
Full report (PDF c. 173pp)

DWP Worklessness Co-design – Final report

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been working with five Local Authorities to Co-design solutions to local issues of worklessness. These are Birmingham, Bradford, Lewisham, South Tyneside and Swindon.

The final DWP Worklessness Co-design report explains what was achieved, the lessons learned and the next steps. It also highlights how DWP can work together with Local Authorities, providers, employers and community groups to co-design solutions to worklessness.

The final report also includes the DWP Worklessness Check List for Local Authorities which sets out the opportunities to work in partnership with Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers.

Full report (PDF 78pp)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Britain's livelihood crisis (Touchstone pamphlet 10)

This pamphlet from the TUC is produced in what is fast becoming a standard “leaflet” format (A4 folded lengthwise (105x297mm) which is actually a non-standard size). And at 57 pages it is difficult to read on screen and as for printing it … expletive after expletive!

For my own use I have converted to text but copyright issues prevent my sharing that with you.
Try it for yourself
If you want to purchase this pamphlet for your organisation it will cost you £10

Executive Summary (in lieu of an abstract)

Britain is facing a deep-seated ‘livelihood crisis’, with a significant and rising proportion of the population denied decent work, pay or pensions and facing growing economic uncertainty. Far from offering expanded work opportunities, the country’s brittle and turbulent economy has brought near-record unemployment and a fragile labour market in many parts of the country.

In early 2011 2.46 million people in the UK were unemployed and there were another 2.35 million “economically inactive” people who were out of work and wanted a job. Millions more are trapped in low-paid, low-opportunity, insecure jobs that offer few real hopes for the future. Many households face erratic, static or in some cases falling incomes from a very low base. Large numbers have no real hope of escape from this crisis, of improving their living standards in the medium or even the long term, even if the economy enjoys a strong recovery.

Over the last three decades, Britain has become a much wealthier country; real output has nearly doubled. Despite this, living standards and life chances for many have stood still or in some cases gone into reverse. While rising prosperity could have brought expanded choices and opportunities for all, a significant proportion of the workforce has found itself increasingly squeezed by economic and social circumstances over which it has little control. For a minority, economic and social prospects have actually declined in absolute terms compared with their parents’ generation, a decline that set in well before the recession.

This pamphlet will explore the nature, extent and causes of this crisis and possible solutions. It estimates that the crisis currently afflicts up to one-third of the population. For some the crisis has been a temporary experience: for most it has proved enduring or repetitive.

The livelihood crisis has been triggered by the increasing polarisation of the jobs market over the last three decades. As well as spreading joblessness, there has been a rise in the number of well-paid professional and managerial jobs, a decline in the number of middle-paid and skilled jobs, and a rise in the number of routine low-paid service jobs. Alongside this ‘hollowing out of the middle’ has been a steady growth in the number of ‘bad jobs’ that offer poor conditions of work, minimal rights and little security.

These trends have been accompanied by an ongoing wage squeeze, with the share of national output accruing to wage-earners falling from a peak of nearly 65 per cent in the mid-1970s to as little as 53 per cent by 2008.  Moreover, this collapse in the wage share has been borne most heavily by the middle and lower paid, leading to a sharp rise in earnings inequality. Some unskilled and semi-skilled jobs now pay little more in real terms – and in some cases less – than they did in the late 1970s.

Although these trends have been fuelled by technological change and the rise of a global labour market, their roots lie in a fundamental shift in Britain’s underlying economic and political philosophy. From the early 1980s, successive governments subjected the UK economy to an all-embracing economic and social experiment, a
switch from welfare to market capitalism.

The post-war commitments to full employment, progressive taxation and inclusive state-provided welfare were scaled back, public services and enterprises were privatised, and trade union and employment rights were withdrawn. The balance of economic power shifted upwards to a new domestic and global financial elite that enforced a new business model – the aggressive pursuit of shareholder value aimed at maximising the short-term rise in the share price.

The experiment in market capitalism led to successive waves of cost-cutting, downsizing, industrial restructuring and short-termism, bringing decades of upheaval for much of the labour force while handing fortunes to the new financial oligarchy on a scale not seen since the late 19th century. The reasons for the upheaval, as set out by its supporters, were clear – to correct for the failings of post-war welfare capitalism, lift Britain out of its tepid entrepreneurial culture and bring renewed economic dynamism. Although the wealth gap might grow, all citizens would be better off through an expanded economic cake.

It has not worked out like that. Finance capitalism has a poorer record on most economic measures than the welfare model it replaced. The new market freedoms have brought slower economic growth, renewed instability and three deep-seated domestic recessions. Far from a more dynamic and entrepreneurial economy, there has been a slump in productive investment, while productivity growth has been lower than in the 1950s and 1960s. Finance and banking created almost no net jobs in the 15 years to 2007, despite the industry’s greatly expanded share of the nation’s output and profits.

The livelihood crisis and economic instability are now locked together – via soaring inequality – in a dangerous economic vicious spiral. This is because the rising concentration of wealth, driven by the collapsing wage and rising profit share, has not only led to the declining opportunities that underlie the livelihood crisis, but has also contributed to economic fragility. As relative wages fell and purchasing power sank, personal debt soared: as the newly inflated fortunes were turned into giant speculative bets, asset prices boomed. Hence the twin triggers of the credit crisis set in motion by the market experiment.

Despite the scale of its failure, the market model remains the economic orthodoxy, domestically and globally. Yet to tackle the current crisis and reverse the instability cycle requires a radical transformation of Britain’s political economy built around a new business and economic model. This does not mean a return to the pre-1979 mix of weak corporatism, state ownership and poorly targeted industrial activism.

What is needed is a ‘post-market model’ with a re-cast role for the state, business and labour and with an emphasis on wealth and job creation as well as a fairer distribution of the national cake.

First, the state needs to adopt a more central role in both minimising inequality and in promoting productive investment, entrepreneurship and wealth creation.
• Because of the market economy’s natural tendency towards excessive inequality, the state should adopt a new operating principle of a bias towards equality.
• It also needs to adopt a much more active approach to industrial policy – including the establishment of a National Investment Bank – along the lines of the successful interventionist strategies adopted by other countries.
• The economy needs to be rebalanced away from its dependency on finance with new controls over the financial excess and speculation that have fed Britain’s short-termism and unsustainable asset price booms.

Second, there should be a package of measures designed to encourage a more responsible capitalism with a better balance between market freedoms and the public interest.
• Regulations need to be tightened to ensure that companies are made more accountable to society, with, for example, new government powers to block or restrain on national interest grounds a hostile takeover of a British company by transient institutional investors.
• To counter the dominance of the ‘for-profit’ corporation and promote the idea of public purpose, alternative forms of more socially orientated business models – such as not-for-profit companies, mutualisation and social entrepreneurship – should be encouraged.
• Legislation is required to ensure that corporations have a responsibility to a wider group than just shareholders, including staff, the local community and the taxpayer.

Third, Britain’s flexible labour market needs to be modified.
• The trade union movement needs to play a more central role in workplace decision-making.
• The level of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – pegged in real terms and now among the lowest of any developed country – should be increased to nearer the European average.
• To tackle rising levels of long-term unemployment and greater economic volatility, Britain needs more active labour market policies, recognising that conditionality in the benefits system must be accompanied by improved support for unemployed people.

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

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Given real-time information about their actions, people change their own behavior. Technology makes feedback loops more effective than ever...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Excavation of the oldest known religious structure has unearthed a tantalizing question: Did a sense of the sacred give rise to human civilization?...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The best ideas prevail. Well, maybe not. We're hard-wired to reject evidence and views that contradict our beliefs – these days, more than ever...more
This sort-of explains flat-earthers and others that I would describe as a bit weird!

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Stan Kenton's futuristic jazz and button-down style drew fans for years. He may have dressed like a church elder, but his personal life resembled a junkie’s...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Pity today’s &eeacute;lite twenty-somethings. Their loving parents pumped them full of enough self-esteem to ripen them into fragile, narcissistic wrecks ... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
In online debates, we not only fail to cultivate charity and humility, we even think of them as vices: forms of weakness that compromise our advocacy... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Numbers don’t lie, but are the best kind of facts we have. Oh, yeah? Charles Seife shows how numbers are being twisted to erode our democracy... more

Play Snowball
This has been around for a while but this updated version is as addictive as ever!

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Suicide bombers: fervent automatons who hate the West and its values? Maybe not. Maybe they just want to commit suicide... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Isabel Hapgood's 1891 Atlantic Monthly profile of the passionate Count Leo Tolstoy turned out to be oddly prophetic in terms of the novelist's life... Intro ... Profile

Friday, 22 July 2011

Fees and loathing: …

 the impact of higher education finance on university participation

The cap on tuition fees will rise to £9,000 in 2012.

In the third of the Centre for Economic Policy’s series on policies of the coalition government, Gill Wyness describes evidence on the impact of past fee increases on young people’s decisions to go to university.

Full article (PDF 4pp) published in CentrePiece (Summer 2011)

The joy of a day out

Note: I said “out” not “off”.

Actually yesterday was hard work with more to come but thanks to all at the New Adventures in Labour Market Intelligence for an exhilarating day with more adventures to come.

Slides from the day are to be made available and I will put the links up when I have them.

Really good stuff going on to provide students and decision-makers with information that has been checked and vetted!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

UK Government Refreshes e-Accessibility Policy

an article by Dan Jellinek published in the E-Government Bulletin (Issue 338 July 2011)
A range of new initiatives relating to access to information and communications technologies by disabled people, including a new online forum to discuss key issues with government, was announced by Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey and his senior digital inclusion policy adviser at last week’s e-Access ’11 conference.
Read the full article (HTML)

Hazel’s comment:
Why does the government think that new initiatives are needed? The law about access is quite clear – but is not adhered to.
I do hope this helps but I am not intending to hold my breath.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

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

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“We like to think that we live in a violent time. But violence has declined every millennium, every century, every decade,” says Stewart Brand. “The reduction in cruelty is astounding”...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Rigorous, disciplined, disarmingly unnatural – no artistic endeavour is more physically or psychologically demanding than ballet...more

Friday Fun from How-To Geek
Are you ready for some fun and adventure after a long week at work? Then grab your gear and get ready for action! In this week’s game you become a member of the Allied Republic of Critters and your job is to help squash the rebellion on Prison Planet and keep the humans from escaping before Admiral Alama arrives.
Play Battle Critters: Prison Planet
Play Battle Critters: Prison Planet (Alternative Link)

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Fairy tales literalize metaphor, lowering their glittering buckets deep into the psyche's well. Consider the worlds of the Brothers Grimm... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
If a tumor can make you a pedophile, is that your fault or your biology’s? Wrong question, says David Eagleman. They are inseparable... more
My own rules are that I should read only enough of an article to decide on inclusion or rejection (an entirely arbitrary thought process on my part). I broke the rules on this – it is fascinating.

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Ice and immortality. What exactly happens to a brain when it's pumped full of cryoprotectant chemicals and frozen at -124°C?... more

The Tree Nobody Wanted: perfect tree-side holiday reading
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Tom McCann's delightful, sweet little book The Tree Nobody Wanted (link to is a remembrance of a working-class Brooklyn Christmas in 1946. It's a perfect holiday read – something to curl up and read aloud in front of a fire or after a big dinner and reflect on the way that family, love and friendship can overcome so much.
Too late for Christmas 2010 but you could get it for Christmas 2011! I'd completely forgotten about this story until reminded by Mr Doctorow!

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
What makes a psychopath? It might in part be a deep, hard-wired inability to recognise the nature of a social contract... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Oliver Sacks again invites readers to explore the mysteries of the human mind with essays on people with drastically altered perceptions... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
At least since Athens clashed with Sparta, the relationship between ascendant nations and dominant powers has been marked by war. Why would China's rise be any different?... more

Using internet search data as economic indicators

The Bank of England’s Quarterly Bulletin is usually, dare I say, a bit boring. Consequently I will list its contents and leave it up to you whether you read all or any of the individual articles.

However, this article, by By Nick McLaren of the Bank’s Conjunctural Assessment and Projections Division and Rachana Shanbhogue of the Bank’s Structural Economic Analysis Division, is of interest not only because of the economic significance but also for the description of using search data from the Internet.

Data on the volume of online searches can be used as indicators of economic activity. This article examines the use of these data for labour and housing markets in the United Kingdom. These data provide some additional information relative to existing surveys. And with further development, internet search data could become an important tool for economic analysis.
Read the full article (PDF 7pp)

Evaluation of National Skills Academies

BIS research paper no. 39 details results from a two-year evaluation of National Skills Academies (NSAs), for the former Learning and Skills Council, now the Skills Funding Agency. It includes evidence on NSA business plans and project reports for the round 1 NSAs, interviews with NSAs and their stakeholders, case studies, qualitative research and surveys with employers and learners involved with NSAs.
Ref: URN 11/1069 PDF 106pp

See URN 11/1070 for the synthesis report.
PDF 10pp

NOTE: These two documents are available as “Internet only”

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tax credits: a close-up view

an article by Jane Millar published in Journal of Poverty and Social Justice (Volume 19 Number 1 (February 2011))


Tax credits were introduced in 2003 as the main instrument to deliver the Labour government’s commitments to increase work incentives, make work pay and reduce poverty levels among working families. This paper uses a case study of one family over several years to explore and illustrate the experience of being in the tax credit system. The analysis highlights the importance of tax credits to family income, but also the negative impact of late and incorrect payments, payments that varied in inexplicable ways, reductions in awards for overpayments and the lack of detailed information about awards.

Hazel’s comment:
And so say all of us (with regards to the negative impact factors)!

Career attitudes and subjective career success: tackling gender differences

an article by Mihaela Enache, Jose M Sallan, Pep Simo and Vicenç Fernandez (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain) published in Gender in Management: An International Journal (Volume 26 Issue 3 (2011))


The purpose of this paper is to analyze the effect of gender upon the relation between protean and boundaryless career attitudes and subjective career success, in today’s dynamic and changing organizational context.
Data were collected using a questionnaire conducted on 150 graduate and post-graduate distance learning students. The data were analyzed using structural equation modelling.
The analysis indicates that women’s career success is positively related with self-direction and negatively related with their reliance on their own values. Furthermore, the authors found a negative relation between organizational mobility preference and men’s subjective career success.
Research limitations/implications
A potential limitation of this study is that all participants were distance-learning students, thus limiting the generalizability of the findings to other populations. Furthermore, cross-sectional designs do not permit drawing conclusions regarding the causal direction.
Practical implications
Organizations should transform work structures and human resources policies and provide career models that allow women flexibility and more control over their work. Research results show that values-driven predisposition may lead to low levels of perceived career success. This indirectly suggests that individuals experience intrinsic career success when their values are consistent with organizational values, and therefore they should seek work opportunities in organizations whose aim, scope, and philosophy is consistent with their ideals.
This is the first paper to shed light on gender’s impact upon the relationship between protean and boundaryless career attitudes and subjective career success, in a context in which there have been calls in literature for more career research taking into account gender differences.

Finding work: a guide for the over-40s

Interviewers are often prejudiced against older job-seekers. Here we [Guardian, work and careers] guide the over-40s on how to respond and land that job.

Chris Ball, chief executive at The Age and Employment Network, says, “You really do have to be ready for anything in job interviews … you can always encounter ageism.”

To prepare for your next interview, examine the age stereotypes and objections commonly held by employers. In our book, Finding Work After 40 [ paperback £8.40], we call them “the seven elephants in the room” because they’re present at every interview, being ignored, but influencing the decision makers.

The seven elephants, for which there is a brief explanation in the Guardian article and, obviously, more in-depth advice in the book, are:
  1. Older people won’t work for a younger manager, or with a younger team
  2. Older people are often overqualified
  3. Older people lack energy
  4. Older workers have health problems
  5. An older worker has money, so they don’t need the job
  6. Older people are not mentally agile
  7. Older workers can't deal with change
Now you’re aware of the elephants that might stand in your way, and you can discuss them if necessary. Then, as Chris Ball suggests, “Relax, smile, look your interviewers in the eye, be yourself and don’t think about age”.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Sweeping it under the carpet

No, I am not talking about the dust bunnies (you can sweep those under the carpet if you want but ultimately the carpet will get so bumpy that you can’t do it any longer).

Unfortunately, the analogy with dust bunnies means that ignoring mental illness in employment and training may mean that the issues ultimately create a problem that can not be ignored.

Andy Wasely, from the City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD), writing in Broadsheet (Issue 176 (Winter 2010)), explains that, despite increasing awareness, mental health remains a taboo subject.

Useful websites for advisers:

Culture, Motivation, and Vocational Decision-Making of Australian Senior High School Students in Private Schools

an article by Jae Yup Jung, Gary Gregory and Kerry Barnett (The University of New South Wales, Australia) and John McCormick )University of Wollongong, Australia) published in Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling (Volume 21 Issue 1 (June 2010))
[I’m confused as I picked this up from an RSS feed with a 2011 date on it]


The purpose of this study was to investigate the roles of culture and motivation in the occupational decisions of senior high school students attending private schools. A theoretical framework guided the study. A questionnaire was administered to 492 Grade 11 students attending a stratified random sample of six independent (private) schools located in the Sydney (Australia) metropolitan area. Structural equation modelling was performed on the data collected. The major findings of the study centre on a new model of vocational decision-making, which provides empirical support for relationships between cultural orientation variables, expectancy-value variables, and related constructs. The findings may be used to advise senior high school students making occupational decisions.

Links between quality of work and performance

via Eurofound Publications

This report is based on 21 case studies in four sectors:

  • electromechanical engineering
  • food manufacturing
  • financial services and insurance activities, and 
  • wholesale and retail
in six countries:
  • Austria
  • the Czech Republic
  • Germany
  • France
  • Spain, and
  • Sweden.
The aim of this research was to investigate whether and how improvement of the quality of work can boost employee and establishment’s performance. Results indicate that the clearest link between quality of work and performance relates to training, skills and employability. Training contributes to improved performance mostly through increased ability to use technology and to meet customer demands. Training is also used when the potential alternative, recruitment, is a less optimal investment.

An executive summary (PDF 2pp) is available.

The full report ref: ef1120 (PDF 75pp) has some clear, explanatory graphs and charts.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

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

Souptoys Toybox
How-To Geek tells us about a set of toys and playsets for your desktop that come wrapped up in a nice easy-to-install package.
When you start the program up you will be presented with an initial window full of toys. You can choose to play with these toys or move on to the playsets that come with SoupToys Toybox.
Go back to your childhood and play with the toys.
Download Souptoys Toybox
Download Additional Playsets

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Both novelists and philosophers ask big questions and try to impose order on the muddle of the world. But can a novelist write philosophically?...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
God is not a feminist. You think otherwise? Eve is a disobedient, dangerous temptress. And the women of the New Testament, well, they're either prostitutes or virgins. Take your pick, ladies...more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Gandhi’s commitment to nonviolence was admirable but impractical. As a response to fascism, it was disastrous... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Forget Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Much of America’s female power elite was groomed at a small, austere, obscure Catholic college... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Velázquez’s Las Meninas is shown in a Prado gallery that often teems with people. This great work of art was painted, however, for an audience of one... more

At the point of originally reading this article (some considerable time ago) it was my favourite painting. As I checked the link to include it in this post, and re-read the article, Las Meninas is, once again, my favourite painting. There have been lots in between including several in the Prado which I visited as part of my 60th birthday present.

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The gadgets that enrich and overwhelm you originate in MIT’s Media Lab, where the most important discipline is no discipline at all... more

via Marcus Zillman’s blog
FunGames24 is a comprehensive site of online games with specific sections on action, adventure, board games, casino, customize, dress-up, driving, education, fighting, other, puzzles, rhythm and shooting.
I wouldn’t know about the comprehensiveness of this resource. In my days writing abstracts for learning opportunity databases “comprehensive” was a word I was taught to avoid at all costs – unless I was absolutely sure that it was true! But I have to say that there’s enough choice here to keep addicts busy for days!

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Philosophy is not an attempt to secure new knowledge about the mind or beauty or right conduct, says Peter Hacker. It is not even a cognitive discipline... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Thelonius Monk's audiences heard music that was, to their worldly sensibility, better than a miracle: not just astonishing, it was believable too... more

Records management in English local government: …

the effect of freedom of information

an article by Elizabeth Shepherd and Andrew Flinn (University College London) and Alice Stevenson (Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford) published in Records Management Journal (Volume 21 Issue 2 (2001))


University College London (UCL) ran a research project over 12 months in 2008-2009, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, which examined what the impact of the UK Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 had been on records management services in local government. This paper aims to report on some of the findings of the study, with a focus on the practical records management issues.
The research considered the three perspectives of records managers: institutional FOI; policy managers; and FOI requestors and user communities.
Following an extensive literature review, qualitative research methods were used to gather data, specifically semi-structured interviewing of 27 individuals from 19 different institutions in London and the South East of England and with 11 requestors.
The findings reported in this paper focus on records services in local government, in particular their organisational location and status, and aspects of the management of current and non-current records, including those in digital formats.
Research limitations/implications
This paper is one of the outputs of a grant-funded project, which documents the results of research in FOI from a records management perspective and makes a contribution to the wider debate about access to information. It attempts to survey user responses, which has been an overlooked aspect of other FOI and records management research.
Practical implications
There are some implications for good practice in records management policy and systems and in the location of records functions in local government.
Local government is an under-researched field in respect of information management and FOI, when compared with other parts of the public sector, and this is therefore a significant contribution to knowledge in this field.

Bringing about positive change in the higher education student experience: a case study

an article by Sally Brown, (Leeds Metropolitan University) published in Quality Assurance in Education (Volume 19 Issue 3 (2011))


The purpose of this article is to outline the ways in which staff of a post-1992 UK university set about enhancing the student experience, at a time when the institution had poor student evaluations as demonstrated by the UK National Student Survey and other indicators. Using a range of interventions led by the PVC (Academic), a concerted effort is made to improve classroom teaching, assessment and feedback, and the ways in which actions taken in response to student feedback were reported back to students.
The article reviews some of the literature available on the NSS and on bringing about changes in universities, and demonstrates how such approaches were put in place.
Over a period of 18 months, it was possible to report significant changes in practice, resulting in demonstrable improvements, both in NSS scores and staff morale.
Research limitations/implications
The article uses a reportage approach, describing the steps taken as part of an evidence-informed approach: potential future work will be undertaken by a new team, following a wide-ranging restructuring of the university.
Practical implications
It was necessary to recognise that teaching staff felt they were already working very hard, so changes had to be both manageable for staff and demonstrably leading to measurable improvements.
Social implications
The article argues that a top-down approach alone is insufficient to bring about rapid changes in a difficult context, and describes how diverse agents enacted improvements.
The quality enhancement approaches described here are shared by a number of universities with similar aims: the originality of the approach lies in its coherence and collaborative nature, which combined evidence-led leadership and cross-institutional commitment.