3 year ESRC-SDS funded PhD Studentship on the Employer’s Voice in the Skills System
PhD Studentship, Stirling Management School, University of Stirling
Full-Time with Start Date: Preferably end of October 2013 (but later dates considered)
Funded by: the Economic and Social Research Council and Skills Development Scotland
Closing date: midnight on 9th October 2013
Studentship: Fees plus £13,726 per annum stipend (Only for students eligible under ESRC residential rules)
Project Title Employer voice in engaging with the education and training system for high performance workplaces
This 3-year PhD studentship (covering fees and a living allowance), jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Skills Development Scotland, is targeted at a highly motivated individual who wishes to work with our team on a study the voice of employers in influencing the skills system. It is one of three such PhDs in the University. The successful applicant will conduct their PhD in Business and Management working with Professor Ronald McQuaid (Lead Supervisor): Professor of Work and Employment, School of Management and Professor Alex Wood a Psychologist in the Behavioural Science Centre at Stirling Management School.
The importance of employer involvement and engagement in the design and delivery of skills-related programmes is well recognized, although the evidence on the effectiveness of this is mixed and the implementation of a demand-led approach to training and skills-related intervention is complex, leading to differences in local delivery models and outcomes. The National Audit Office (2007) argued that to effectively help people gain sustainable work and advance requires local employment and skills services to work closely with local employers to meet labour market needs. The OECD reviewed vocational education and training, finding that few countries have achieved strong employer engagement without an equally strong apprenticeship system.
This project will look at different approaches to giving employers a voice in the skills system in relation to preparing people for entry to high performance workplaces. It will critically review direct and indirect approaches to incorporating employer voice, looking at the key issues in Scotland, the rest of the UK and two other countries. The project will also consider the major challenges involved in raising the demand for skills in the context of high-performance workplaces and will explore the tension between a responsive employer engagement system which constantly adapts and a system which employers can readily understand.
Description of Duties and Support
The study aims to analyse different approaches to giving employers a voice concerning the preparation of people for entry to high performance workplaces.
It will consider issues such as the nature and quality of jobs in terms of occupations, the type of job (e.g. full-time, part-time) and skills requirements is influenced by industrial structure, technological change, globalisation, specialisation and firms’ strategies for new goods and services. Employer demand for skills is also dependent upon their organisational strategies and their perceptions of returns to skills. It will also consider the major challenge facing the future UK economy of raising the demand for skills by moving up the value chain and by encouraging more businesses to adopt high-value, skill intensive patterns of behaviour and changes in different types of skills and skill outcomes in the context of ‘High Performance Workplaces’ which are likely to provide opportunities for personal development and making the transition to work and progression.
The project would critically review the direct and indirect employer and other voices in the education and training system in Scotland; define and analyze employer views of skills, requirements for entrants to high performance workplaces; analyze the tension between a responsive system which constantly adapts and a system which employer can readily understand; and analyze different potential forms of incorporating the employer voice.
The main techniques are qualitative analysis of employers of high performance workplaces, intermediary organisations (e.g. Sector Skills Councils, SBIC etc.) and of education and training stakeholders. The project would review of academic and policy literature on the fields of employer engagement in education and training; analyse key issues in Scotland, rest of UK and two other countries; carry out qualitative face to face interviews with senior stakeholders in FE Colleges, universities, in Scotland; interviews with employers with high performance workplaces; interviews with intermediary bodies SBIC, SSCs etc.; mixed methods analysis; and conclusions. Use would be made of existing links (and new ones) with such organisations.
Strong intrinsic interest in research in the topic.
Ability and willingness to contribute to the intellectual life of the Management School and the Behavioural Science Centre, including participating in seminars, journal clubs, group discussions and related activity.
An Honours degree, or equivalent professional qualification.
Excellent written and oral communication skills.
Ability to work individually and autonomously as well as potential to work as part of a team.
Some proficiency in STATA and/or SPSS and/or nVivo.
Postgraduate degree or training in a relevant area.
Experience in qualitative research.
Experience of statistical analysis.
Evidence of active engagement with the area of skills including student publications and social media activity.
Experience of interacting with relevant stakeholders.
Experience of preparing research papers.
Support and training
Specialist training would available (e.g. on specific techniques) and the student would be part of a vibrant and expanding group of researchers on skills and the Scottish economy. The University of Stirling is a member institution of the ESRC Scottish Doctoral Training Centre. A vital part of the School’s research collective is a vibrant doctoral community with almost 80 research students attached to the School, many of whom are from overseas.
Stirling University takes a flexible, interdisciplinary approach to learning (http://www.stir.ac.uk/management/research/). Stirling Management School is recognised as a centre of academic excellence that offers innovative scholarship and widespread engagement with a variety of stakeholders to improve business, society and lives. The research carried out in the School creates lasting impact through its contribution to academic debates, public policy and management practice. The student would be part of the strong research network in skills, labour markets and work organisation, but will also be able to link to School networks covering: gender, work and management; behavioural economics, socio-economic development; creativity and wellbeing.
The student would join as full member the Behavioural Sciences Centre (www.bsciencecentre.com ), an interdisciplinary research centre which brings together approaches from economics, psychology, and medicine to address the key questions in society, such as how to better understand and foster economic and industrial prosperity, decision making and behaviour, and health and well-being. The student will concretely benefit from:
1. Attending regular centre meetings, being a part of the decision making of the centre and thus being socialised into academia and learning how to manage university units as well as more generic skills such as applying for fellowships and funding. Involvement in such decision making will well prepare the person for a career in academia.
2. Attend a regular academic session slot, which include revolving journal clubs and research presentations, for both of which the student will be expected to participate and regularly lead, gaining additional feedback on their work outwith the supervisory team
3. Attend quarterly workshops as part of the very successful funded series, which attract leading researchers and policy makers from across the UK. Once the student has results they will be expected to present at these.
4. Have opportunity to disseminate the findings of their work, and to engage with discussion on the topic more broadly on the centre blog (http://economicspsychologypolicy.blogspot.co.uk) which currently logs 1,100 hits per day, and the Twitter Feed (@StirlingEconPsych) with 770 followers including policy makers, industrial leaders, researchers in the field, and the general public, linked in part to the blog.
5. Be a part of a fast growing cohort of PhD students in a priority area for the university and funding councils nationally.
In addition to the general weekly contact with all members of the centre (including the supervisors), the primary guidance and support will be provided through at least fortnightly supervisory meetings with one or other (normally both) supervisors (with additional contact envisioned).
Finally, after an assessment of the specific needs of the student, a specific education and training programme will be developed with the student attending relevant modules from Master's courses across the school, as well as university provided inductions and doctoral level skills training. Relevant masters modules from the MRes may include the below (although we stress, in keeping with the flexible learning ethos of the school, actual modules will be based on the educational and training needs of the student rather than a "one size fits all approach").
About the Stirling Management School and Behavioural Science Centre
The student will be a member of the Behavioural Sciences Centre. Formed in 2012, the Behavioural Sciences Centre is an interdisciplinary research centre which brings together approaches from economics and psychology to address the key questions in society, such as how to better understand and foster economic and industrial prosperity, decision making and behaviour, and health and well-being. The centre pursues these goals through basic science and applied research, educational programmes, and industrial collaborations. Full details of the work of the behavioural science centre at Stirling are available at the website below. We encourage candidates to explore this and the Stirling Management School websites.
In the first instance students should make a preliminary application through e-mail to Ms Lisa Reid (email@example.com) with the subject line: "PhD Studentship on the Employer’s Voice Application". The application must include (at least) two documents;
(1) A full CV, documenting qualifications and any relevant previous experience and existing skill sets.
(2) A cover letter of approximately 1,250 words specifying why they are the right candidate for this post. This letter should explain; (a) briefly, why the candidate is interested in undertaking a PhD, (b) in detail, why the candidate is interested in doing this specific PhD, including why they are interested in the topic area, why they are interested in studying it in the proposed way, and why they would be interested in working with relevant stakeholders; (c) A brief 250 word comment on the UKCES report ‘The Employer Voice in the Employment and Skills System’ http://www.ukces.org.uk/assets/ukces/docs/publications/employer-voice-report-whats-the-deal.pdf (c) in detail, why their existing skills make them the ideal candidate to undertake the research described; and (d) in detail, why they would want to join the Management School and the Behavioural Science Centre.
The two documents will be used to shortlist which candidates will be invited to interview. Following interview the successful candidate will be made a scholarship offer. Note that the candidate must also apply to undertake a PhD at the university and the scholarship offer is conditional on the student being awarded such (although as the candidate has already been evaluated, this is assumed to be successful as long as the candidate meets standard requirements).