Adviser on the Edge

careers in island communities: research, theory and practice


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Rural labour markets of the future?

Charlie Ball (who writes the High Peak Data blog) has just written about his predictions for the graduate labour market in 2016… In his blog he makes this prediction:

The urbanisation of graduate work

Graduate employment is concentrated in cities, and that shows no sign of of changing soon. Over 40% of the working population in Newcastle, Manchester, York, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow had a degree or equivalent at the end of 2014, and when we get figures for 2015, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, Coventry, Norwich, Ipswich and Southampton could all have joined the list. For graduates looking for work – look to the cities. Smaller urban areas, and rural areas, will have some roles, but mainly in a public sector which is likely to continue to lose jobs.

For policy – graduates will play an increasingly important role in urban economies, and we need to get to grips with a future where the largest group of employees in many of our cities – in some cases a majority, and not just in London – will have degrees.

Interesting eh? Reading this I wonder – if more and more graduate jobs are in cities, what is happening to the experience of graduates who choose a different path and live in rural areas? Partly, yes, their employment prospects will be different (with graduate jobs in rural areas, as Charlie notes, mainly focused on the public sector), but there will also, potentially, be social or psychological impacts. How would it be, for instance to be the only one from your university friends who chooses to live in a location other than London or another city? How would you feel? Would this experience impact on your future choices…? All of these are questions to ponder, and I would be interested in your thoughts…


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Stats busting: the Higher Education experiences of students from Orkney and Shetland

So, as part of my PhD I have been looking at the destinations of higher education graduates who were originally based in Orkney and Shetland. I have looked at data collected as part of the annual Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey over a five year period and some initial observations were published recently in the latest Graduate Market Trends.

Basically I make several observations:

  1. In terms of which Higher Education Institutions students are graduating from we can see that institutions based in Aberdeen are very popular (accounting for about 25% of graduates). The University of Edinburgh is also popular, and the University of the Highlands and Islands (considering its size) is also very popular – accounting for the same sort of proportion of graduates as institutions such as Glasgow and Strathclyde which are significantly larger institutions. The results can be seen in the graph below:

university by domicile

2. Some subjects seem to be relatively more popular with students from the islands than among their Scottish counterparts (e.g. creative arts and design, and education) and some less popular (e.g. business and computing). The results are shown below:

subject choice3. A surprisingly high number stay in or return to the islands after graduation, with almost 40% of those whose location is known six months after graduation being back in the islands. This suggests a more complex migration picture than a simple ‘brain drain’ from the islands.

4. There is a marked difference between the proportion  of men and women progressing to higher education, with approximately 63% of graduates from the islands being women. Women also appear more likely to move back to / stay in the islands after graduation.

Now, given that the numbers in this sample group are very small it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from these observations. It is also important to note that in order to get a big enough sample size I have used historical data from the last five years, and so the experiences of students now may have moved on slightly from when this data was gathered. However these findings do give an indication of some interesting areas that may merit further research….


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Orkney Research in Progress Conference

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Orkney Research in Progress Conference, I meant to blog about it at the time but I’ve only just got to it now!

The conference was arranged by Orkney Heritage Society, and included a fantastic range of speakers. My presentation was on the career and migration pathways of students from Orkney and Shetland (no surprise there!) and in the presentation I covered some national trends in entry to Higher Education and destinations from Higher Education before looking at some figures from Orkney and Shetland. I have been lucky enough to secure some data that covers the destinations of graduates originally from Orkney or Shetland six months after graduation (covering the last 5-10 years), so some of the data I presented was from my initial research into this data set (for those of you interested this data set is from the DLHE survey). I am hoping to work up some of this content into a full published paper before long, so watch this space….!

Me presenting at the conference - thanks to Orkney Heritage Society for the photo!

Me presenting at the conference – thanks to Orkney Heritage Society for the photo!

I really enjoyed the other speakers during the day too –

  • Andrew Appleby’s talk on Neolithic pottery, it was great to hear about his experimentations with adding fats to Orkney clay to make it more malleable, a really interesting practical exploration to help understand how Neolithic people survived and thrived in Orkney!
  • Scott Timpany’s talk about Orkney’s wooded landscape – it’s amazing to think that Orkney once had so many trees!
  • Hugo Anderson-Whymark’s talk giving an overview of stone objects in Orkney in prehistoric times – I never knew the patterns on stone might be important to why some stones were used for some objects and not others.
  • Rebecca Ford on a dialogical approach to discourse and community, looking at the work of Bakhtin particularly and how community is constituted – I always enjoy her thoughts, and it made me think again about the role of humour in Orkney.
  • Helga Tulloch’s talk on the Stromness Yule Tree game – which I’d never heard of before, but it was really interesting to think that this annual game could be representative of a struggle between ‘land’ and ‘sea’ with farmers predominantly making up one team and fishermen the other, and how the result of the game may be used to predict the relative prosperity of these industries over the coming year.
  • Tom Rendall’s talk on migration and the ‘mither tongue’ looking at the importance of dialect and how incomers to Orkney use (or don’t use) dialect – which was another interesting one from my perspective and my interest in movements of people and identity.
  • Carola Huttman on George Mackay Brown, which gave an excellent insight into his work, something I always feel I should know more about…
  • Liz Lovick on Orkney Ganseys and Lace – which was fascinating from my perspective in terms of identifying unique ‘Orkney’ patterns for fisherman’s ganseys, but also at how patterns had moved around, with Orkney patterns borrowing from Icelandic, Norwegian and Shetland patterns, I guess perhaps moving with the fishermen who travelled between these communities?
  • and finally Peter Leith on Weights in Orkney and Nordic Communities, which had some great visual aids, and I never knew there was a weight called a scruple! That must be where the word ‘scruple’ as in ‘moral misgiving’ comes from….?


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Graduate Mobility and Employment

Charlie Ball's report on Graduate Migration patterns

Charlie Ball’s report on Graduate Migration patterns

I have just read Charlie Ball’s excellent report: Loyals, Stayers, Returners and Incomers: Graduate migration patterns. I’ve been interested in Charlie’s work for some time, ever since coming across his earlier report into graduate migration patterns in the West of England. What this current report shows, as with his previous work, is that employment outcomes and graduate migration patterns are interrelated. So, for example, ‘incomer’ graduates (those who have not lived or studied in the region previously) have the lowest likelihood of being in a non-professional job, and returners (those who returned to their region of domicile after moving away for university) are the most likely to be in non-professional work.

What is particularly striking to me in this report, though, is the proportions of students in the various categories. The proportions are as follows:

Regional Loyal: 45.9%

(those who were domiciled in, studied in and remained in the same area)

Regional Returners: 24.7%

(those who were domiciled in an area, moved away to study and then returned to the area)

Regional Stayers: 11.5%

(those who move elsewhere to study, and then stay in the region in which they studied for work).

Regional Incomers: 18%

(those who were domiciled in and studied in areas other than the one they lived in after university)

The thing that strikes me is that almost three quarters of graduates stayed in, or returned to their home location after university. This raises significant questions for me about how mobile graduates actually are. Although in the policy literature it is often assumed that graduates are (or should be) highly mobile and willing to move for work, in reality the picture looks somewhat different.

A final thing I noticed from the report is that Scotland is treated as one region, which is notable mainly for its very high levels of Loyals. However, I wonder if there is scope for a more detailed and granular analysis of Scotland by region. Given that there are significant regional differences in Scotland – with the central belt being the centre of population, employment and also of universities – I wonder if there would be significant differences between the mobility patterns of students in the central belt compared to other areas?


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Orkney and Shetland Student Survey is live! Can you help….?

Well, this is exciting. The first stage of my PhD project – a survey of final year undergraduates from Orkney and Shetland has just gone live!

help wanted

Image courtesy of mrpuen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, if you lived in Orkney or Shetland before going on to study for a degree, and you are due to graduate in 2015 please do take part! The survey is available online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6XWVS2M

Alternatively you can download the Final Research Information Sheet and Survey.

Please do help if you can, and help me to spread the word about the project too…! The more people take part the better the results of the research will be. Through my research I hope I will be able to find out more about what it is like for Orkney and Shetland students who go on to higher education, and help to inform careers and education services for future students from the islands.

In the coming weeks I will be promoting and circulating the survey as much as I can – so if  you have any ideas about what I can do to get the word out do let me know… Thank you!


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Graduates should be matched to local jobs… just an urban issue?

I just read this article by Times Higher Education: “Graduates should be matched to local jobs says report”. This article refers to the UniverCities report, which looks at how universities can support city growth.  Part of the backdrop to the report is the issue of graduate migration after graduation – some graduates will return to their familial homes and others will be drawn to the bright lights of London, which potentially deprives their university towns and cities of the talent that has been fostered there.

The report makes recommendations under three main themes:

  1. Optimising research and teaching for metro growth.
  2. Promoting graduate retention and utilization.
  3. Enterprising students, graduates and faculty.

Now, these are ideas that interest me, because even though this report focuses on urban growth similar recommendations also appear in rural development literature. So, in the Orkney Population Change Study (2009), commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Orkney Islands Council, recommendations for a sustainable future included supporting ‘partnerships between education establishments and the productive sectors on the islands’ (p.9)  ‘a slight reduction in out-migration of younger age groups’ (p.7) and ‘supporting enterprise’ (p.8). Now these recommendations are not specifically about higher education or graduates, but the similarities with the recommendations in the report are striking.

The difference, I guess, is that for many rural areas historically there has been an export of talent to major cities, especially for higher education. So although for urban areas the migration of students back to their rural ‘home’ regions may be a loss, for the rural areas they move back to they are a positive gain. Indeed, in the Orkney Population Change Study although a ‘slight’ reduction in out-migration is noted as necessary, more critically a 40% increase in in-migrants who are aged 25-34 is identified as important (p.7) So, although as the UniverCities report proposes, retention of graduates might be valuable in urban development, it may be important to consider how this could impact on rural areas who are also seeking to attract young graduates back.

 


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NICEC article

Well, this is exciting. I have just published my first article about my research! The article appears in the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling journal for October, and covers the main findings of my masters research, as well as offering some suggestions for careers advisers working with clients in rural areas.The link is below if you fancy a read – do let me know what you think…

rosie-alexander-nicec-journal-oct2013