Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Workforce development

Workforce development is not an exciting topic and as far as I can see no other library bloggers are spending much time on this . It can be defined as the process by which organisations recruit and develop the workforce that they will need to deliver services to their users/customers. I attempted to provide an introduction to this topic back in February.

The problem is that it is a long term and strategic process of concern to the directors of organisations and not seemingly relevant to the day-to-day concerns of staff at the coal-face. However I feel that the decisions that are being made now could have a fundamental effect on the whole nature of librarianship in the future and at the very least we should be aware of what is happening.

Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) is developing a Sector Skills Agreement and as part of this process has produced a discussion document - Developing Solutions which contains 10 proposed solutions to the skills needs of the lifelong learning workforce.

The first thing to note is that the libraries. archives and information services workforce (LAIS) has been grouped with community learning and development, further education, higher education and work based learning into a Lifelong Learning Sector Skills Council. So are librarians part of a lifelong learning profession? The concept sits easily enough with HE and FE librarians. Information professionals in business may not initially see themselves as being involved in lifelong learning but it does fit in with the idea of a 'learning organisation' and alongside work based learning practitioners. Public librarians can also see themselves as being involved with lifelong learning and public libraries as 'street corner universities'. However in most local authorities, libraries are grouped with cultural services and staff from other cultural services will come under the Creative Culture Sector Skills Council. Is this split helpful?

When we look at some of the proposed solutions a pattern emerges:
  • 1 Explore the options for 'professionalising' all parts of the lifelong learning workforce
  • 2 Development of an integrated CPD framework and model for the lifelong learning sector where appropriate
  • 3 Develop a 'skills for learning professionals' qualification framework
  • 6 Develop sector wide career pathways

This could suggest that in the future new entrants will not be librarians but lifelong learning professionals and that their careers might span teaching and librarianship. The report does begin by pointing out that "Although these 10 solutions are proposed for the whole sector and are UK-wide, their implementation will vary according to the nation and/or constituency group". However, as Angela Abell points out in the current CILIP Update (October p9) "While some organisations are obvious employers of the LAIS workforce, many members of that workforce are employed by organisations where they form a minority. The employer representative would not automatically consider their needs when engaging in 'demand-led' activities." In other words the future of the LAIS workforce is being decided by people with little interest in or understanding of our profession.

Other solutions proposed do reflect the needs of the library profession:

  • 7 Develop a knowledge bank for IAG professionals [career advisers]
  • 8 Recruitment programmes to address specific shortages in the lifelong learning sector
  • 9 develop a UK wide Leadership and management strategy
  • 10 Develop the business case and resources to support the use of technology in the sector, particularly relating to information learning technology (ILT).

Another piece in Update reported that library sector employers had expressed concern about current shortcomings in the customer service competencies of some staff with traditional academic training and that the demand for staff with these skills might have to be met from outside the core LAIS workforce. In other words, library staff are just not nice enough to their customers! Perhaps the LLUK aproach will not only develop better customer service skills but will also shift the emphasis away from a service centered approach (we are librarians and this is what we can do for you) to a customer centered approach (you are a lifelong learner, what can we do for you?). See my previous post.

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