LMI for All API released

I have written periodic updates on the work we have been doing for the UKCES on open data, developing an open API to provide access to Labour Market Information. Although the APi is specifically targeted towards careers guidance organisations and towards end users looking for data to help in careers choices, in the longer term it may be of interest to others involved in labour market analysis and planning and for those working in economic, education and social planning.

The project has had to overcome a number of barriers, especially around the issues of disclosure, confidentiality and statistical reliability. The first public release of the API is now available. The following text is based on an email sent to interested individuals and organisations. Get in touch if you would like more information or would like to develop applications based on the API.

The screenshot above is of one of the ten applications developed at a hack day organised by one of our partners in the project, Rewired State. You can see all ten on their website.

The first pilot release of LMI for All is now available and to send you some details about this. Although this is a pilot version, it is fully functional and it would be great if you could test it as a pilot and let us know what is working well and what needs to be improved.

The main LMI for All site is at http://www.lmiforall.org.uk/.  This contains information about LMI for All and how it can be used.

The APi web explorer for developers can be accessed at http://api.lmiforall.org.uk/.  The APi is currently open for you to test and explore the potential for  development. If you wish to deploy the APi in your web site or application please email us at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com and we will supply you with an APi key.

For technical details and details about the data go to our wiki at http://collab.lmiforall.org.uk/.  This includes all the documentation including details about what data LMI for All includes and how this can be used.  There is also a frequently asked questions section.

Ongoing feedback from your organisation is an important part of the ongoing development of this data tool because we want to ensure that future improvements to LMI for All are based on feedback from people who have used it. To enable us to integrate this feedback into the development process, if you use LMI for All we will want to contact you about every four to six months to ask how things are progressing with the data tool. Additionally, to help with the promotion and roll out of LMI for All towards the end of the development period (second half of 2014), we may ask you for your permission to showcase particular LMI applications that your organisation chooses to develop.

If you have any questions, or need any further help, please use the FAQ space initially. However, if you have any specific questions which cannot be answered here, please use the LMI for All email address lmiforall [at] ukces [dot] org [dot] uk.

 

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.

 

Using web 2.0 and social media in European projects

Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, UK from Web2LLP on Vimeo.

There is growing interest in how to use social media in European research and development projects. The Web2LLP project aims to improve web strategies and maximise the social media presence of lifelong learning projects. Their web site explains theyBritain provide “personalised support and training (a week-long face-to-face course and free webinars), and shares best-practices and resources.”

One of those resources is a video gallery including interviews with project managers who have used social media in European Commision sponsored Lifelong Learning Programme projects.

And when Maria Perifanou asked me for an interview how could I refuse. I talked to Maria about how we used social media in the G8WAY project. The G8WAY project was based on the idea that the growing availability of web 2.0 allows for bridging the present gap between the structures developed to support students in mastering today’s educational transition and their formulation in an institutional perspective through learner centered and connective approaches, with a chance to more effectively manage educational transition.  “G8WAY  developed web 2.0 enhanced learning environments, to enable learners to reflect and develop their creativity potentials and transitional skills in the light of their own and others’ learning experience, made visible through a variety of media sets and PLE tools, each of them designed to meet the requirements of transition envisaged, and all of which are mapped into one single pedagogy framework.”

What is a knowledge worker?

I was at a meeting earlier this week discussing our ideas for a project using mobile devices for work based learning in the construction industry (see previous blog entry). We have emphasised the importance of interaction with physical objects in the workplace, which I think has generally been underestimated or even ignored in most elearning research and applications, at least outside the e-science domain.

We were asked whether the ideas we were putting forward were applicable to knowledge workers.

According to Wikipedia:

Knowledge workers in today’s workforceare individuals who are valued for their ability to act and communicate with knowledge within a specific subject area. They will often advance the overall understanding of that subject through focused analysis, design and/or development. They use research skills to define problems and to identify alternatives. Fueled by their expertise and insight, they work to solve those problems, in an effort to influence company decisions, priorities and strategies. What differentiates knowledge work from other forms of work is its primary task of “non-routine” problem solving that requires a combination of convergent, divergent, and creative thinking (Reinhardt et al., 2011).[1] Also, despite the amount of research and literature on knowledge work there is yet to be a succinct definition of the term (Pyöriä, 2005)

I am not sure that the concept of knowledge workers is very helpful. In reality many jobs today are requiring research skills and non routine problem solving as well as creative thinking. And that goes well beyond people who spend most of their days working in front of a computer or what used to be called ‘white collar’ jobs.

Indeed one of the big issues in the building and construction industry appears to be rapidly increasing needs for higher levels of skills and knowledge, driven largely by new (and especially green) technologies and work processes. Traditional course based further training does not scale well – and may not be particularly effective when not linked to workplace practice.

Proving this ‘hypothesis’ is not so easy and of course leads us back to the issue of what constitutes knowledge in a work based context. But in November last year I attended a fascinating (at least to me :) ) seminar hosted by the LLAKES project at the Institute of Education in London where Any Dickerson  discussed work undertaken for the UKCES on:

the development of a new and comprehensive set of detailed, multi-dimensional occupational skills profiles for the UK by combining the US-based Occupational Information Network (O*NET) system with the UK Standard Occupational Classification (SOC2010). This enables the multi-dimensional O*NET system to be used to generate comprehensive occupational skills profiles for the UK, providing a much more detailed depiction of skills utilisation, and changes in utilisation, than is currently available for the UK.

The project report “Developing occupational skills profiles for the UK : a feasibility study” provides detailed information about the methodology and findings. And I suspect, with a little more detailed analysis, it should be possible to draw some conclusions about changing skills and knowledge components in different occupations.

Why is this important? Obviously it has implications for economies and employment. But from the point of view of teaching and learning – and especially developing learning opportunities – we should be training for the future not the past or even the present. To do this we need a detailed understanding of what is happening in different occupations. And we need to get beyond policy rhetoric about the knowledge economy and knowledge workers.

Coding the future

The debate over computer science, digital literacies etc. in the UK is still continuing. And the success of the Raspberry Pi computer – selling out of its first 70000 production run in under a week shows the demand and interest in coding and computers in general.

One driver of the debate is that employers are unhappy with the competence and knowledge of potential employees. But this is not new. Employers have always moaned that job applicants do not have the right skills, aptitudes, attitudes – whatever. And it is always the fault of the schools or universities. Maybe it is time that employers started thinking about their own role and responsibilities for training a future workforce. And that includes the IT industry. Of course curricula need updating. Learning how computers work is probably more of a democratic necessity rather than for employment or the economy. There is a danger that we evolve as a society of consumers essentially controlled by the technology of a few major corporations. You know who they are!

But just tweeking the school curriculum or weeding out production fodder university courses will not solve the problem. The real issue is how we view learning – how we create learning environments outside the classroom and how we value learning that takes place outside the formal education sector.

I like the following thoughtful comments from Chris Applegate on his blogpost ‘Why it’s not just about teaching kids to code

Secondly, there’s a spectrum of challenges, but there’s also a spectrum of solutions. It’s not just schools and universities that need to bear the burden. As I said, coding is a practice. There’s only so much that can be taught; an incredible amount of my knowledge comes from experience. Practical projects and exercises in school or university are essential, but from my experience, none of that can beat having to do it for real. Whether it’s for a living, or in your spare time (coding your own site, or taking part in an Open Source project), the moment your code is being used in the real world and real people are bitching about it or praising it, you get a better appreciation of what the task involves.

So it’s not just universities and schools that need to improve their schooling if we want to produce better coders. Employers should take a more open-minded approach to training staff to code – those that are keen and capable – even if it’s not part of their core competence. Technology providers should make it easier to code on their computers and operating systems out-of-the-box. Geeks need to be more open-minded and accommodating to interested beginners, and to build more approachable tools like Codecademy. Culturally, we need to be treat coding less like some dark art or the preserve of a select few.