In the last post, we discussed how to recommend learning resources, based on the kind of information that MyLK is likely to be gathering anyway. We finished by introducing the idea of a career or learning map, and career paths – not just the formally recognised career paths, but, vitally, less well-known career paths.

This post explores further how career maps may work with and for MyLK users.

Paths and maps of careers and learning

If you search the web, you will find many examples of career maps, though they are of several different kinds. Here is a link to a typical set of them from India. These set out several job titles or roles in a particular sector of employment, and show typical pathways that lead from one role to another. Someone with a good knowledge of jobs in a particular sector could create similar ones, for the jobs and roles that they know.

We have created an initial career map for part of the hospitality sector. It is, naturally, incomplete, and as it is only an initial attempt, it will undoubtedly have inaccuracies. It is presented here as an example of the kind of map we believe might be useful.

To initiate this hospitality career map below, we started with the occupational terms from the European ESCO initiative, took a set of them that seemed to be related, and applied our domain knowledge to filling in which roles led to which other ones. ESCO gives us the benefit of a well-researched set of occupational terms; translations into a wide range of European languages; and links to skills, competences and qualifications. It may also be possible to put in EQF levels – certainly some industry frameworks (such as the European e-Competence Framework) relate their roles to EQF levels. In our opinion, this is as good a way to start creating career maps for MyLK as any we can think of.

 

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How much detail should a career map show?

The value of a career map of this nature for MyLK depends on whether people in that sector can locate their job role or title on it, without too much ambiguity or uncertainty. If there are too few roles shown on the map, it may mean that people asked to locate their role think “my role is not shown”; while if there are too many roles shown on the map, it may mean that people think “I don’t know which of these roles is mine”. Sometimes equivalent roles may be described by differing terms, depending not only on human language, but on the type of employer. If two or more descriptions are essentially of the same role, MyLK needs to present them as alternative names for the same role.

Crowdsourcing the updating of career maps

However good such a map may be when it is created, jobs and roles evolve and change. The best chance of keeping such a map up to date is, we believe, by involving the users themselves, updating the map effectively through a “crowdsourcing” approach. If a MyLK user thinks that their current role is not represented on the relevant map, they should be able to add a new role to the map. Other users could then add variant terms meaning the same thing, or translations. Potentially, a consensus decision process could be set up so that users can come to agreement about representing their areas of shared experience. Or, if this were not possible, then some kind of editorial arbitration could be set up.

Given a good enough map, users should be able to locate their current and past roles on the map, and so create personal career paths that show where they have been on the map. We could extend this idea of paths back to education or training before the start of the career proper, thus bringing together “career” and “learning” paths. If there were a way of removing from the map roles that never occur on the paths of MyLK users, in time, the map would become, in effect, the merging together – the overlap – of all the paths of users who have worked in that sector. The initial map, whether built from ESCO or from other sources, will become gradually less important as the crowdsourced map takes over. By making paths public, users make another contribution, along with their recommendations or ratings.

How maps can help the quality of advice

The fact of having career and learning maps, together with MyLK users locating themselves on these maps, then opens up even better possibilities for recommending resources. It is clear that which resources are relevant to a person will closely depend on their current knowledge, skills and competences (which we will here refer to as “abilities” for short), and the abilities that they are aiming to acquire. But people often find it hard to assess their abilities accurately. People may both overestimate and underestimate their abilities, particularly when they do not have experience of using their abilities in a workplace, and have no good quality feedback from other people.

On the other hand, people are generally much clearer about what their current roles are, and their ambitions for future roles. And when people are successfully performing an active work role, it seems likely that they share a good proportion of the relevant abilities with others in that role. They may not know, explicitly, what abilities they need to acquire or improve, but if they know what job role they wish to move on to, the typical abilities of their desired role will be known, and MyLK can use this knowledge to help in the process of recommending suitable resources. And to support other people making such career moves, the kind of resources recommended could well be courses, as in the discussion above, either MOOCs or sets of resources assembled by users, and rated as relevant to that career move.

Sharing notes on the journey

Independently of resource recommendation, a career map, together with users’ paths, will enable other kinds of advice, and will help MyLK users help each other. What are the “next moves” from any one role that other users have actually taken? This kind of information can enrich the general knowledge that is held by people who have worked, or trained, for the industry. And if the users are willing to comment on their steps of the career paths, this knowledge can be given to other people who are considering whether to follow in their steps.

Conclusion

Working in career and learning maps to MyLK promises to greatly improve the quality of the advice that MyLK is able to give. It will be clearer which resources, and courses, are appropriate for any user. Beyond that, we may be able to arrange for MyLK users to share their career and learning paths, and their comments on the steps in those paths. Then, advice can be given to others about their possible ways forward, as well as the resources that will support their next steps.

 

Simon Grant and the Endurance team.