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The utility of operationalising the concept of skill ecosystems : the case of intermediate occupations in Scotland

Anderson, Pauline (2010) The utility of operationalising the concept of skill ecosystems : the case of intermediate occupations in Scotland. Employee Relations, 32 (4). pp. 435-452. ISSN 0142-5455

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he primary purpose of this paper is to highlight the utility of operationalising the concept of skill ecosystems, or more accurately “intermediate occupational skill ecosystems”. This paper draws on the process and findings of an empirical study of intermediate occupations in Scotland which set out to explore changing systems of initial skill creation and related problems of skill by embedding these systems within the broader canvas of skill ecosystems. Operationalising skill ecosystems not only provided a framework from which to explore and provide an explanation of changing initial systems of skill creation but also supported broader conjectures on the nature of developments and problems within intermediate occupations. The operationalisation presented has relevance to policy makers and academics beyond the scope of this particular examination of intermediate occupations. For policy makers, it emphasises that better skills utilisation cannot be reduced to the level of the individual; that the supply, demand, development and deployment of skills are interrelated and not discrete; and that the roles and relative influences of actors in a position to help build and sustain better skill ecosystems are changing. For academics concerned with exploring changing systems of skill creation, this, or some similar, operationalisation, has potential practical application in terms of supporting key stages in the research process. This paper's value centres around the proposition, and illustration, that it is possible to effectively utilise a simple operationalisation of the inherently “messy” concept of skill ecosystems without losing the essence and complexity of the relations and dynamics embodied in the concept.