Anne Louise Reardon-James
Research student, School of Social Sciences
I currently work as a Project Leader for Cardiff and Vale College. This involves working on a number of collaborative projects with partners based in SE Wales. The aim of these educational programmes is to improve adult skills in communication, numeracy and digital literacy in the workplace. This was the inspiration for undertaking a part-time EdD at Cardiff University, so as to evaluate and look at the effectiveness of such training.
My supervisors at Cardiff University are Professor Caroline Lloyd and Dr Peter Hemming, at SOCSI.
Having worked in adult education and lifelong learning for over a decade, I chose to undertake a Professional Doctorate in Education with Cardiff University as it was particularly relevant to my day job. I relished the opportunity to study alongside professionals working in similar fields of social work, healthcare and education during the initial taught modules on research methods and design.
I am currently at thesis stage, undertaking fieldwork and analysis in the workplace, through comparative case study research in the service sector (being significant in terms of number and linked to 80% of workers according to the ONS in 2016). More specifically, I am comparing two businesses in the hospitality sector against two businesses in the community health and social care industry. Bryman (2012) advocates the "logic of comparison", using multiple case studies which can be better understood if they are compared in two or more meaningfully comparable cases. These two sectors have been chosen as they have similarities and differences for purposes of comparison. They are both industry sectors that are historically low-paid and require low entry qualification levels, yet make up a significant number of jobs and apprenticeship frameworks, show strong growth and are therefore significant (LPC, 2016). They both involve working in direct contact with people and provide a service to clients, but in different settings and for different reasons.
I am focussing on the economically important geographical areas of South-East Wales, using mixed qualitative research methods of short periods of observation and semi-structured interviews. Observing and gathering data from participants in 'real-life' workplace settings should help to offer an alternative perspective to the current large scale quantitative surveys carried out in this area on behalf of the Welsh and UK governments.
The Effectiveness of Essential Skills Training in the Workplace in SE Wales
How do employers and employees define, learn and apply communication, numeracy and digital literacy/ICT skills in the workplace?
The overall research aim is to investigate the way in which Welsh and UK government essential skills policy has been applied by employers and employees, so as to critically analyse the definitions, perceptions and experiences of its use and training in the workplace. There remains confusion and lack of clarity regarding the shared understanding of the definition of essential skills amongst employers. This project intends to look beyond the traditional skill deficit approach used widely up until this point (Moser, 1999) alongside pre-determined curricula and set categories. The objectives are to gain a greater understanding of employer/employee definitions, learning and application of communication, numeracy and IT skills in the workplace.
Based on the ideas of Freire and Macedo (1987), educational researchers are beginning to call for more detailed case studies which examine collaborative workplace relationships as a whole, rather than attempting to isolate variables or factors in order to examine their effectiveness. As a result, I am undertaking qualitative case study research in comparative workplaces in the service sector, with Welsh SMEs alongside larger companies, due to a limited number of comparison research studies in these areas. Large companies employ over 250 people; SMEs are categorised into medium (employing less than 250 people) and micro-employers (employing less than 10). I am using a combination of short periods of observation and interviews with managers and frontline staff, so as to ask employers and employees what literacy, numeracy and ICT skills they feel are essential in the workplace and as a result of this, what they might consider impact and effectiveness to look like.