ISE News Digest #19: ChatGPT, loneliness at work, degree apprentices and more

Jan 31, 2023 | News, Sector & policy

Recruitment numbers up, AI rewriting the rules, loneliness at work, calls to fix HE and FE. Here is our roundup of January’s top stories.

Recruitment: hiring levels remain strong, for now

There were 184,335 new job adverts in the first week of January, a 24.5% increase on the same period in January 2022’, said the REC, A positive start to 2023. The FT adopted more a concerned tone and reported that the banking sector is bracing itself for the largest round of job cuts in fourteen years. 

On our forums, employers tell us they are sticking with, even increasing, student hiring numbers. But if the recession deepens, people leaders will struggle to balance cost pressures with a desire to invest in talent pipelines for the upturn, when it comes.

AI: who is writing your application form?

AI tool ChatGPT3 earned a grade B in a Wharton MBA exam paper. Professor Christian Terwiesch tested ChatGPT’s ability to answer exam questions instead of a student.  The tool did ‘an amazing job at basic operations management and process analysis questions’, less well at maths.

If schools are concerned that AI can write homework assignments, shouldn’t employers also worry who is writing the answers to their application form questions?

Development: loneliness at work

One in five 18 to 29 year olds experience loneliness at work, reports the Red Cross. We already know that students experience greater loneliness than adults. With hybrid working now the norm, employers will need to address mental health issues for students starting work, whether full-time or on placement and intern programmes.

HE and FE: calls for change to funding and structures

Do you think England’s tertiary education system is broken (policy is devolved)? Andy Westwood certainly does. In a piece for WonkHE he argues  that the next government should create a reformed single system to oversee FE, HE, adult education and apprenticeships, not focus on tuition fees. 

Whilst over at HEPI, ‘funding, accountability framework[s], performance indicators and cultural conditioning’ are the barriers to innovation within HE, say Natalie Day, Johnny Rich & Chris Husbands in their blog.

Universities: government prioritises degree apprentices

‘My three areas of focus’ says education minister Robert Halfon in his letter to universities, are ‘that universities meet the skills needs of the economy, provide quality qualifications that lead to well paid jobs, and advance social justice by helping disadvantaged applicants’.

Halfon has said on numerous occasions that ‘degree’ and ‘apprentice’ are his two favourite words in the English language. A fifth of his letter is focused on degree apprenticeships.  His speeches, interviews, and twitter feed make it pretty clear that vocational education routes are his priority.

T-levels: plans to axe BTecs criticised

The government wants employers and universities to support the new T-level qualifications. Halfon’s letter also asked universities to clarify their T-level admission criteria for students.

400 students with T-levels started university in 2022, a figure that will expand as T-levels expand. But plans to cut the number of BTecs have been criticised by a group of former education ministers, a significant shift in policy if reports are accurate.

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