Travel to university time a factor in student performance

My summer morning’s work is settling into a routine. First I spend about half an hour learning Spanish on DuoLingo. Then I read the morning newsletters – OLDaily, WONKHE, The Canary and Times Higher Education (THE).

THE is probably the most boring of them. But this morning they led on an interesting and important research report. In an article entitled ‘Long commutes make students more likely to drop out’, Ana McKie says:

Students who have long commutes to their university may be more likely to drop out of their degrees, a study has found.

Researchers who examined undergraduate travel time and progression rates at six London universities found that duration of commute was a significant predictor of continuation at three institutions, even after other factors such as subject choice and entry qualifications were taken into account.

THE reports that the research., commissioned by London Higher, which represents universities in the city found that “at the six institutions in the study, many students had travel times of between 10 and 20 minutes, while many others traveled for between 40 and 90 minutes. Median travel times varied between 40 and 60 minutes.”

At one university, every additional 10 minutes of commuting reduced the likelihood of progression beyond end-of-first-year assessments by 1.5 per cent. At another, the prospect of continuation declined by 0.63 per cent with each additional 10 minutes of travel.

At yet another institution, a one-minute increase in commute was associated with a 0.6 per cent reduction in the chances of a student’s continuing, although at this university it was only journeys of more than 55 minutes that were particularly problematic for younger students, and this might reflect the area these students were traveling from.

I think there are a number of implications from this study. It is highly probable that those students traveling the longest distance are either living with their parents or cannot afford the increasingly expensive accommodation in central London. Thus this is effectively a barrier to less well off students. But it is also worth noting that much work in Learning Analytics has been focused on predicting students likely to drop out. Most reports suggest it is failing to complete or to success in initial assignments that is the most reliable predicate. Yet it may be that Learning Analytics needs to take a wider look at the social, cultural, environmental and financial context of student study with a view to providing more practical support for students.

I work on the LMI for All project which provides an API and open data for Labour Market Information for mainly use in careers counseling advice and guidance and to help young people choose their future carrers or education. We already provide data on travel to work distances, based on the 2010 UK census. But I am wondering if we should also provide data on housing costs,possibly on a zonal basis around universities (although I am not sure if their is reliable data). If distances (and time) traveling to college is so important in student attainment this may be a factor students need to include in their choice of institution and course.

 

Circular Economy and Lifelong Learning: Scenarios – Methodologies – In action

2019 ACR ZWS Circular Economy Lifelong learning Cover
The momentum for the circular economy has never been stronger. Global issues, such as climate change and natural resource consumption levels, urgently require a change in our lifestyles and a transformation in our ways of thinking and acting. To achieve this change, we need new skills, new values and new behaviours that lead to more sustainable societies. But is it even possible to find a shared definition of circular economy (CE) education?

As part of the Erasmus+ CYCLE project, in which Pontydysgu are a partner, on 19 February 2019, ACR+, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, organised a workshop entitled “Circular Economy Competencies. Making the Case for Lifelong Learning”.  brought together local authorities, experts and practitioners in the field of environmental and sustainability education to discuss this topic. The speakers of the workshop shared stories of vocational training and green jobs, sustainable consumption education and system thinking, of pedagogical models capable of empowering learners and urging institutions to include the principles of sustainability in their management structures. I introduced the project at the workshop and have contributed to the publication.

What this publication is about

This publication aims to make those experiences a shared treasure by sharing them with educators, policymakers and managers of NGOs and training organisations that intend to promote the development of local loops of circular economy through educational tools. The three chapters of this booklet are structured to cover different areas of the lifelong learning landscape:

  • Circular thinking in education. Educational designers will find useful insights on: the promotion of circular holistic approach in schools; a bird’s-eye view on how tertiary education is integrating the circular economy into its educational offer; the creation of attractive learning pathways in adult training;
  • Upskilling waste, repair & reuse industry. Policy makers and professionals in the field of vocational training will find useful references on the development of professional standards and competence profiles for 3R’s industries;
  • Facilitating the transition towards circular economy. The last chapter contains an analysis of the links between Industry 4.0 and circular economy in Italy and the case history of a network of municipalities that have developed training courses to equip local authorities’ staff for the circular transition. In conclusion, a final article analyses the possible positive correlations between entrepreneurial education and circular economy.

You can download the publication here.

Skills for Green Jobs


Addressing climate change and setting economies and societies more firmly onto a path towards a sustainable, low-carbon future is one of the defining challenges of our time. Such shift will entail far-reaching transformations of our economies, changing the ways we consume and produce, shifting energy sources, and leveraging new technologies.

The European Centre for Vocational Education and Training, Cedefop, has released a new report on Skills for Green Jobs. The report is based on country studies undertaken in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in six countries (Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, France and the UK) since 2010.

A key outcome, says CEDEFOP, is that countries vary in their approach to defining, classifying and collecting data on green jobs and skills. However, they have observed increased efforts are observed on data collection on developments in the ‘green economy’.

Since 2010, green employment trends have tended to parallel general economic trends. Carbon reduction targets and associated incentives and subsidies have been especially influential on green jobs and skills; other green policies, such as legislation to protect the environment, have also been important.

Although few countries have a strategy on skills for green jobs, “the updating of qualifications and VET programmes has soared, reflecting increased demand for green jobs and skills since 2010.” Updates mainly concern adding ‘green’ components to existing qualifications/programmes, since changes in skill demands are perceived more pertinent to including new green skills within existing occupations rather than the creation of new green ones.

 

More information is available in the CEDEFOP magazine promoting learning for work, Skillset and Match.

Is manufacturing finished in the UK?

The Guardian newspaper highlights a report by Cambridge University for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), showing that Britain’s manufacturing sector is much larger than official figures suggest.

The report argues that official statistics, which estimate that manufacturing output accounts for 9% of national income, are based on “outdated and inaccurate methods of counting” and the figure is much higher.

The report avoids putting a fresh figure on the proportion of GDP accounted for by the sector, but one of its authors said it was nearer 15% once activities tied to the sale of UK-made products, including engineering support and contracted services, were included.

“It is essential that policymakers have accurate information on the size of manufacturing sectors in order to develop an internationally competitive industrial strategy,” said Eoin O’Sullivan, one of the report’s authors.

“In particular, policymakers need to be able to measure manufacturing in a way that better reflects how firms actually organise themselves into value networks.”

While the Guardian news spin on the report focuses on the threat to the manufacturing by tariffs on exports resulting from a no deal Brexit, the report has wider implications. Manufacturing has long been seen as in decline and is accordingly unattractive as a careers option when compared to the growing service sector. Yet the report shows the continuing importance of occupations like engineering.

Transferable skills and the future of work

There continues to be a flurry of newspaper articles and studies of teh effect of automation and Artificial Intelligence on employment and jobs. There are different predictions about the scale of the change and particularly about the numbers of jobs which are at risk. One cause of the difference is disagreements about how many new jobs will be created, another is the speed of change. This may in part depend on whether employers choose to invest in new technologies: in teh UK productivity has remained persistently low, probably due to low wage rates.

What we do know is that organisations will need to cope with many of the changes associated with changes in the skill mix required of their employees  through learning through challenging work, training and continuing professional development etc. We also know that the changes mean it is difficult to imagine exactly how the labour market will look in say ten years but understanding the labour market can help people make sense of the context in which they are working or are seeking to work

At the same time we do not know the exact skill demands associated with unforeseen changes in the labour market, but we do know that new technical skills will be required, individuals and firms may need to specialise more to compete in global markets, and that demand will grow for ‘soft skills’ which are very difficult to automate, including complex social skills, cultural and contextual understanding, critical thinking, etc.

Yet this debate is not new. In the 1990s there were similar debates around teh move towards the ‘knowledge society’. At that time it was being predicted that low skilled work was set to rapidly decline, a prediction that pre-dated the rapid expansion in low skilled (or at any rate low paid) employment in the service sector. the answer at that time was seen to be promoting transversal skills and competences, variously called core skills, core competences etc. These emhpasised teh important of literacy and numeracy as well as communication skills and Information Technology. The problem was that such skills and competences were, in general abstracted from the curriculum as stand aone areas of learning, rather than being integrated within occupational learning. Of course, the other tendency n many Euroepan countries was to increase the number of young people going to university, at the expense of vocational educati0on and training.

What was needed then as now was to develop technical skills coupled with soft skills. Mastery of a technical skill is itself be a transferable skill whereby other technical skills can be developed more quickly as they are required . Developing latest industry-integrated technical skills is easiers if an underpinning technical knowledge base has been developed through more traditional educational provision. Retraining while in-work is very much easier than getting redundant people back into work.

Germany by Gerald Heidegger and Felix Rauner who looked at occupational profiles. Occupational profiles are in effect groups of competencies based on individual occupations. In Germany there are over 360 officially recognised occupations.

As long ago as 1996, Gerald Heidegger and Felix Rauner from the University of Bremen were commissioned by the Government of Rhineland Westphalia to write a Gutachten (policy advice) on the future reform and modernisation of the German Dual System for apprenticeship training.

They recommended less and broader occupational profiles and the idea of wandering occupational profiles. By this term they were looking to map the boundaries between different occupations and to recognise where competences from one occupation overlapped with that of another. Such overlaps could form the basis for boundary crossing and for moving from one occupation to another.

Heidegger and Rauner’s work was grounded in an understanding of the interplay between education, work organisation and technology. They were particularly focused on the idea of work process knowledge –  applied and practice based knowledge in the workplace. This was once more predicated on an idea of competence in which the worker would make conscious choices of the best actions to undertake in any particular situation (rather than the approach to competences in the UK which assumes there is always a ‘right way’ to do something).

Per Erik Ellstroem from Sweden put forward the idea of Developmental Competence – the capacity of the individual to acquire and demonstrate the capacity to act on a task  and the wider work environment in order to adapt, act and shape (design) it.

This is based on the pedagogic idea of sense making and meaning making through exploring, questioning and transcending traditional work structures and procedures. Rauner talked about holistic work tasks, based on the idea that a worker should understand the totality of the work process they are involved in.

In this respect it is interesting to see the results of recent research by Burning Glass, a company using AI and big data techniques to analyse labour market information. They say that in examine the role of Receptionist in Burning Glass Technologies’ labor market analysis tool, Labor Insight, “we can see that receptionists have a variety of related jobs they can do based on their transferable skills. Transferable skills are types of skills that a worker can use across many jobs, allowing them to more easily transition into a new role. A receptionist has many transferable skills such as administrative support, customer service, scheduling, data entry, and more. These transferable skills will allow a receptionist to move into related jobs such as Legal Secretary, Executive Assistant, or File Clerk.

According to Labor Insight, a Receptionist can transition into a Medical Secretary role which offers a higher average salary and is projected to grow by 22.5% in the next 10 years. This also offers an opportunity for the receptionist to venture into a new industry, allowing them to explore new health care roles such as Nursing Assistant, Emergency Room Technician, or Patient Service Representative.

The transferable skills that Burning Glass talk of are very similar to Rauner and Heidegger’s wandering occuaptional profiles. Rather than. as some commentators have suggested (see for example Faisal Hoque), a return to humanities based subjects in providing abstracted knowledge as the basis for future qualifications, the need is to improve vocational education and training which allows workers to understand the potentials of integrating automation and AI in the workplace. Creativity is indeed important, but creativity was always a key aspect of many jobs: creativity is part of the work process, not an external skill.