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ACA PES: A Collaborative Approach to building a Public Employment Service
The ACA PES project focuses on the provision of Public Employment Service (PES) in Ireland and its capacity to support a range of service users and in turn impact positively on developing a strong and skilled labour force capable of accessing sustainable opportunities. The National Strategic Objective (5) focus on a Strong Economy, supported by Enterprise, Innovation and Skills, requires a public service infrastructure to support and develop the domestic labour force and ensure that job seekers receive the required supports to enable them to access these opportunities, this is particularly the case at times of labour and skills shortages. PES is a critical piece of the combined national effort to reach this objective and must be capable of offering support across the board to the citizens of Ireland, both skilled job seekers and job changers, and those most distant from the labour market.
With unemployment almost five percent, the conventional wisdom is that Ireland is approaching full employment. However other labour force measurements draw attention to the potential labour force. While not everyone can work, many do want to access paid employment. This is clearly an economic concern representing the opportunity cost of wages and revenue forgone and the cost of social welfare supports. There are also real challenges enabling people to adapt to labour market changes and the future of work. Crucially lack of access to decent work also represents a huge loss of human potential and capacity and limits opportunity to maximise economic and social inclusion as well as individual, family and community well-being.
In Ireland the challenge is to create decent jobs and strong labour market institutions that enable everyone who wants to work access to paid employment. To date our public employment services have focused primarily on the live register and guided people toward a work first employment outcome. This research focuses on a collaborative approach to building a national public employment system which has the capacity to support the development of a strong labour force with a particular focus on the needs of diverse cohorts of job seekers, particularly those most distant from the labour market.
The research comprises three separate inter-related studies which will be conducted within a mixed methods framework: (1) a critical examination of the PES architecture in terms of public, private and NGO actors, their collaboration with a variety of stakeholders, and the identification of gaps in provision specifically for those most distant from the labour market; (2) a detailed description of the guidance models used by the various parts of the PES with particular focus on the model most appropriate for those most distant from the labour market; and (3) the identification and pilot of an appropriate social impact model with related outcome measurements, for example using a social return on investment model.
Across five work packages the research will in year one a) map the key institutional architecture, and b) outline the employment guidance model for those most distant from the labour market; and in year 2, c) design an employment focused guidance specification, tools to measure social value, and an evaluation toolkit. Two work packages, d) management and e) dissemination and impact, will traverse the project, using collaboration, innovation, and knowledge translation as key approaches. The research will be informed by reviews of current services and will draw on the advice of an experienced national and international steering committee.
Our research is funded by the Irish Research Council and is developing in collaboration with the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, the Local Employment Service Network and the Irish Local Development Network, and in association with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
Nuala Whelan (ACAPES) : Model of Enabling Employment Guidance: Toolkit and Metrics
Ciaran Reid Louth Leader Partnership & Irish Local Development Network: Usability, dissemination, standards
Mary Stokes National Centre for Guidance in Education (Career guidance)
Jenny Bimrose Institute for Employment Research, The University of Warwick
Session 4 Launch of Special Issue of Administration: Activation and Welfare Reform in Ireland
Chair Muiris McCarthaigh (QUB)
Plugging the Gaps for a More Tailored Public Employment Service: Helen Johnston and Anne Marie McGuaran (National Economic and Social Council)
Navigating indifference: Irish jobseekers experiences of welfare conditionality - Philip Finn (MU)
Opening the Black box of Implementing Activation in Ireland: Nuala Whelan (MU)
Sacrificial citizens? Activation and retrenchment in Ireland’s political economy. Fiona Dukelow (UCC)
Brid O Brien (INOU/ACAPES Advisory Committee)
Dr Delma Byrne Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology
Close- Mary Murphy and Nuala Whelan (ACAPES) , Michael McGann (GAII)
Covid-19 is fast-tracking more and more services online however the transformation and ‘digitalisation’ of the welfare state has been on the horizon for several years. In June, Ireland’s Labour Market Advisory Council, while recognising that face-to-face support will remain necessary for some people, advocated digitalisation of Public Employment Services as a means to ‘create new channels to deliver activation and job-search supports’. Internationally, before Covid, big data and machine learning were already being used extensively to automate and enhance the profiling of jobseekers for activation. Several countries including Belgium and Australia were also pioneering and experimenting with ‘digital-by-default’ automated employment services models.
The purpose of this conference is to understand how apps, algorithms and big data are being deployed in activation and employment guidance services and to unpack the associated challenges and opportunities for enhancing welfare delivery through digitalisation.
The digital transformation of employment and guidance services via automated online platforms and AI-enabled decision-making heralds the promise of more efficient and better targeted services. This at a time when the capacity of public employment services to deliver face-to-face guidance and support is under tremendous pressures from rising caseloads, recessionary budget pressures, and ongoing social distancing requirements. Nevertheless, recent events such as the release of predicted exam grades in the UK illustrate existing concerns about systemic bias and the risk of discrimination against lower socio economic groups in algorithm-reliant decision-making. The Covid-crisis has also highlighted digital exclusion and how many lack the infrastructure and digital literacy to access services online.
Over the course of two sessions, leading international researchers, policy practitioners, and employment guidance professionals will address key issues related to the use of digitalisation within activation and employment guidance services:
• What are the risks and benefits of AI and big data for streamlining how jobseekers are targeted for assistance? How are case managers and providers utilising profiling technologies for needs assessment and service customisation?
• To what extent are apps and algorithms complementing or displacing the professional judgement of case managers and guidance workers?
• In what ways can digital platforms enhance job-matching, guidance, and placement services while ensuring that vulnerable clients are not left behind?
• What are the implications of digitalisaton for practices of welfare conditionality?
• How is big data, AI and machine learning changing how employment and guidance workers view and work with their clients?
Session 1: Digitalising Public Employment Services: International policy developments and trends
Chair: Dr Michael Mc Gann, Marie Curie Research Fellow, GAII, MUSSI
•Ludo Struyven, Associate Professor and Head of Research on Education and Labour Market, KU Leuven, Belgium -Ludo Struyven Presentation
•Ray Griffin, Lecturer in Strategic Management, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland. - Ray Griffin Presentation
•Jo Ingold, Associate Professor, Department of Management, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. -Jo Ingold Presentation
•Simone Casey, Research Associate at Per Capita and Future Social Services Institute, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. - Simone Casey Presentation
•John Martin, Former Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD and Chair of Irish Labour Market Advisory Council
Session 2: Using digital tools in employment and guidance services: Practitioner and stakeholder perspectives
Chair Dr Nuala Whelan, IRC Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Coalesce, MUSSI
•Paul MacSweeney Fórsa, Public Sector Trade Union
•Brid O’Brien, Head of Policy and Media, Irish National Organisation of the Unemployment
•Joan O’Donnell, FreedomTech (Disability Federation of Ireland/Enable Ireland)
•Helen Ryan, Policy Officer, National Adult Literacy Agency
Rapporteur: Ciaran Reid, Irish Local Development Network
The Covid-related unemployment crisis has been sharp and fast, resulting in unprecedented levels of job-loss in Ireland and elsewhere. Responding to the needs of the labour force and re-igniting the economy will require a careful strategy. This zoom seminar aims to explore the impact of the crisis on the labour force and presents research conducted at Maynooth University on how the public, private and not-for-profit sectors can be part of a post Covid ‘Back to Work’ strategy. The report focuses on re-imagining a post-Covid Public Employment Eco System, who needs to be included in this strategy, and how it could be implemented in terms of institutions, governance, digitalisation and income supports.
On the 5th June 2020, the ACA PES project team present a webinar to discuss the paper, led by Dr Mary Murphy (PI), Dr Nuala Whelan (Post Doc) and Dr Philip Finn (Research Assistant), with guest Prof Rory O’Donnell, retired Director National Economic and Social Council.
The report is available below along with any resources made available after the event. A recording of the webinar will be made available as soon as possible.
The Leave No One Behind conference was the first of a number of events organised as part of the ACA PES: A Collaborative Approach to building a Public Employment Service project, funded under the Irish Research Council’s COALESCE programme. The project focuses on a collaborative approach to building a national public employment service.
This day-long conference asked how public employment services and career guidance models could best meet the long-term needs of those most distant from the labour market. The conference was aimed at academics, employment services and career guidance practitioners, and policy makers interested in developing public employment and guidance models.
Links to Download the presenations on the day are available below;