Learning about Careers: Open data and Labour Market Intelligence

I’ve spent a lot of the last two months writing papers. I am not really sure why – other than people keep asking me to and I really do have a built up load of things which I haven’t written about. But one bad consequence of all this is I seem to have abandoned this blog. So,  time to start catching up here.

This paper – Learning about Careers: Open data and Labour Market Intelligence – is co-written with Deirdre Hughes. It is a preprint and wil be published in RIED – Revista Iboeroamericana de Educación a Distancia (The Iberoamerican Review of Digital Education) some time soon.

The full paper can be found on Research Gate or alternatively you can download it here. The abstract is as follows:

“Decisions about learning and work have to be placed in a particular spatial, labour market and socio-cultural context – individuals are taking decisions within particular ‘opportunity structures’ and their decisions and aspirations are further framed by their understanding of such structures. This article examines ways in which learning about careers using open data and labour market intelligence can be applied. An illustrative case study of the LMI for All project in the UK shows the technical feasibility of designing and developing such systems and a model for dissemination and impact. The movement towards Open Data and increasingly powerful applications for processing and querying data has gathered momentum. This combined with the need for labour market information for decision making in increasingly unstable labour markets have led to the development and piloting of new LMI systems, involving multiple user groups. Universal challenges exist given the increasing use of LMI, especially in job matching and the rapidly expanding use of open source data in differing education and employment settings. We highlight at least six emergent issues that have to be addressed so that open data and labour market intelligence can be applied effectively in differing contexts and settings. We conclude by reflecting on the urgent need to extend the body of research and to develop new methods of co-constructing in innovative collaborative partnerships.”


CareerHack competition reeps rich harvest

First the official stuff (from the press release).

“Talented UK students have won three out of four prizes in a worldwide competition to create a new app to help people develop their career.

The CareerHack open data contest was launched in November last year by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), and asked developers around the globe to build an app based on the UK Commission’s “LMI for All” open data, which contains information on the UK labour market, including employment, skills and future job market predictions.

First prize winner for the competition was Tomasz Florczak from Logtomobile in Poland, who won £10,000 for his innovative Career Advisor app, while 16-year-old school student Harry Jones, from Bath, took home a £5,000 prize for his Job Happy entry.


The contest also had a special prize specifically for entrants aged 16-24 in Further Education. In this category 22-year-old IT apprentice Phillip Hardwick won the £5,000 prize for his entry, Career Path. And judges were so impressed with the quality of entrants from the category that they introduced an additional runner-up prize of £2,500, which went to a team effort from students at Barking and Dagenham College in London.

Competition judge Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Chair of National Careers Council and a Commissioner for UKCES, said:

“As judges we were all highly impressed at the outstanding contributions made by our winners, and of the talent and ability being displayed by the next generation of up-and-coming developers and programmers.

“The quality of the submissions was so high we felt the need to introduce an additional prize, but all those that entered should be extremely proud of their efforts.”

The judging panel was made up of technology experts from Google, Ubuntu and HP, alongside representatives from the UK Commission and John Lewis. Judges made their decision based on how innovative the entry was, how viable it was as a working app, the potential it had for making an impact on society and the overall quality of the packaged app.

CareerHack judge Matt Brocklehurst, Product Marketing Manager at Google UK said:

“At Google we’re well aware of the importance of making data open and encouraging young, creative talent. CareerHack was a fantastic example of this and we were very impressed by the high standard of entries from everyone who entered – the fact that three of the four winners are young people at the start of their careers is fantastic news.  We hope these prizes will enable them to get a head start down whichever career path they choose to follow.”

Fellow CareerHack judge Cristian Parrino, Vice President of Mobile and Online Services at Ubuntu, added:

“The CareerHack competition demonstrated how an set of open data can be used to cater to the needs of people at different stages of their career paths. It was wonderful to see the different flavours of high quality applications and services built on UKCES’s data.”

LMI for All has been developed by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, working with a consortium led by the Institute for Employment Research at Warwick University and including Pontydysgu, RayCom and Rewired State.”

Pontydysgu’s bit in all this is managing the technical side. I have to say I was a bit sceptical of producing an APi and then opening it up and encouraging contributions through a competition, but having looked at the videos I am gobsmacked by the inventiveness of teh programmers who entered. We will be looking in more depth at what has been produced. We are also seeking feedback from all those who participated and planning more events later in the year. If you would like to know more (and particularly we would be interested in similar approaches to Open data for Labour Market Information in other countries) please contact me at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com.

LMI for All – coming soon

A quick and overdue update on the Labour Market Information for All project, which we are developing together with Raycom, the University of Warwick and Rewired State and  is sponsored by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

LMI for All will provide an online data portal bringing together existing sources of labour market information (LMI) that can inform people’s decisions about their careers.  The database will contain robust LMI from national surveys and data sources providing a common and consistent baseline to use alongside less formal sources of intelligence. Due for release at the end of May 2013, access to the database will be through an open API. the results of queries can then be embedded by developers in their own web sites of apps. We will also provide a code library to assist developers.

The project builds on the commitment by the UK government to open data. despite this, it is not simple. As the Open Data White Paper (HM Government, 2012)highlights,  data gathered by the public sector is not always readily accessible. Quality of the data, intermittent publication and a lack of common standards are also barriers. A commitment is given to change the culture of organisations, to bring about change: ‘This must change and one of the barriers to change is cultural’ (p. 18).

We have talked to a considerable number of data providers including government bodies. It is striking that all have been cooperative and wishing to help us in providing access to data. However, the devil is in the detail.

Much of the data publicly collected, is done so on the condition that is is non disclosive e.e. that it is impossible to find out who submitted that data. And of course the lower the level of aggregation, the easier it is to identify where the data is coming from. And the more the data is linked, the more risk there s of chong qi cheng bao disclosure.

We have developed ways of getting round this using both statistical methods (e.g. estimation) and technical approaches (data aggregation). But it remains a lot of work preparing the data for uploading to our database. And I guess that level of work will discourage others from utilising the potential of open data. It may explain why, transport excluded, their remain limited applications built on the open data movement in the UK.

It may suggest that the model we are working on, of a publicly funded project providing access to data, and then providing tools to build applications on top of that data, could provide a model for providing access to public data.

In the meantime if you are interested in using our API and developing your own applications for careers guidance and support, please get in touch.


2012 PLE Conference papers now online

In these days of repositories and Open Online Resources publishing should be easy. But it is still not so simple. For one thing there is all the editing and checking = for another developing / begging or borrowing the technical infrastructure.

The PLE Conference organisers are committed to publishing all contributions to our annual conference online with a Creative Commons License. And thanks to hard work by Carlos, Luis and Sara, the proceedings of the 2012 conference, held in Aveiro, Portugal, are now online here.

Check it out – if you have any interest in Personal Learning Environments you will find much of interest.

Open data and Careers Choices

A number of readers have asked me about our ongoing work on using data for careers guidance. I am happy to say that after our initial ‘proof of process’ or prototype project undertaken for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), we have been awarded a new contract as part of a consortium to develop a database and open APi. The project is called LMI4All and we will work with colleagues from the University of Warwick and Raycom.

The database will draw on various sources of labour market data including the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Annual survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). Although we will be developing some sample clients and will be organising a hackday and a modding day with external developers, it is hoped that the availability of an open API will encourage other organisations and developers to design and develop their own apps.

Despite the support for open data at a policy level in the UK and the launch of a series of measures to support the development of an open data community, projects such as this face a number of barriers. In the coming weeks, I will write a short series of articles looking at some of these issues.

In the meantime, here is an extract from the UKCES Briefing Paper about the project. You can download the full press release (PDF) at the bottom of this post. And if you would like to be informed about progress with the project, or better still are interested in being involved as a tester or early adapter, please get in touch.

What is LMI for All?

LMI for All is a data tool that the UK Commission for Employment and Skills is developing to bring together existing sources of labour market information (LMI) that can inform people’s decisions about their careers.

The outcome won’t be a new website for individuals to access but a tool that seeks to make the data freely available and to encourage open use by applications and websites which can bring the data to life for varying audiences.

At heart this is an open data project, which will support the wider government agenda to encourage use and re-use of government data sets.

What will the benefits be?

The data tool will put people in touch with some of the most robust LMI from our national surveys/sources therefore providing a common and consistent baseline for people to use alongside wider intelligence.

The data tool will have an access layer which will include guidance for developers about what the different data sources mean and how they can be used without compromising quality or confidentiality. This will help ensure that data is used appropriately and encourage the use of data in a form that suits a non-technical audience.

What LMI sources will be included?

The data tool will include LMI that can answer the questions people commonly ask when thinking about their careers, including ‘what do people get paid?’ and ‘what type of person does that job?’. It will include data about characteristics of people who work in different occupations, what qualifications they have, how much they get paid, and allow people to make comparisons across different jobs.

The first release of the data tool will include information from the Labour Force Survey and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. We will be consulting with other organisations that own data during the project to extend the range of LMI available through the data tool.

LMI for All Briefing Paper