Dr Susan James

Susan James is the Assistant Director of SKOPE and Director of Doctoral Research in the Department.

She is a Research Fellow at Green Templeton College and is an Associate Fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford and St. Anne’s College, Oxford. She is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Witswaterand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Susan’s entire career has been in education in various forms: she taught in secondary schools in Australia and England before starting her academic career. Susan completed a B.Ed in her native Queensland, Australia and read for a M.Sc in Comparative and International Education and a D.Phil in Education at the University of Oxford.

Research

Susan’s research interests are varied including Vocational Education and Training (VET) systems and policy; vocational excellence; apprenticeship; work-based learning; on-the-job and off-the-job training, social mobility; and low skill and low wage occupations. Her interest in vocational education developed while teaching in secondary schools where she recognised the need and importance of vocational subjects for students not interested in a purely academic route.

Susan’s background is in qualitative research and her current work focuses on:

  • Understanding and developing vocational excellence broadly and specifically in the context of skills competitions;
  • Apprenticeship, policy and employer engagement, particularly focusing on workplace learning;
  • Vocational education and training and social mobility; and
  • Skills policy.

She welcomes enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of these areas.

Funded Research and Fellowships

  • Principal Investigator, ‘Developing and Understanding Vocational Excellence’ project, National Apprenticeship Service (Skills funding Agency) (£1,074,931.70, June 2008 – current
  • Principal Investigator, ‘Apprenticeships, Employer engagement, and Vocational Formation in England’ project, British Council China (£26,475), Nov 2012 – Aug 2013
  • Research Fellow, ‘Modelling Vocational Excellence (MoVE)’ project WorldSkills Foundation (£10,250) Mar 2011 – May 2012
  • Principal Investigator, ‘Graduates on the property ladder: Skills, work and employment in a ‘graduatising’ industry’ project, ERSC Small Grants Award (£100,000), Jan 2011 – Apr 2012.
  • Principal Investigator, ‘Comparative study of vocational qualifications and their impact in raising skills in England and South Africa’ project Leverhulme Early Career Development Fellowship (£49,279) Oct 2005 – Sept 2007

Publications

Books

  • Hayward, G., and James, S. (Eds.) (2004), Balancing the Skills Equation: key issues and challenges for policy, Bristol: The Policy Press.

Book Chapters

  • James, S. and Warhurst, C. (2013). ‘Questioning the UK government’s vision of higher education and social mobility: evidence from a non-graduate occupation’ in Natale, S. and Libertella, A. (eds.), Higher Education: economic and social mobility, New York: Global Scholarly Publications.
  • Bryson, J., James, S. and Keep, E. (2012), ‘Recruitment and Selection’, S. Bach and M. Edwards (eds.), Managing Human Resources: Human resource Management in transition, 5th Edition, London: Wiley.
  • Keep, E. and James, S. (2012), ‘Are Skills the Answer to Bad jobs? Incentives to Learn at the Bottom end of the Labour Market’, C. Warhurst, F. Carre, P. Findlay and C. Tilly (eds.), Are Bad jobs Inevitable? Trends, Determinants and Responses to Job Quality in the Twenty-First Century, Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Keep, E. and James, S. (2011), Employer Demand for Apprenticeships in Dolphin, T. and Lanning, T. (eds.), Rethinking Apprenticeships, London: IPPR.
  • Grunert, K., James, S., and Moss, P. (2010), Tough Meat, Hard Candy: implications for low wage work in the food processing industry in Gautie, J., and Schmitt, J. (eds.), Low Wage Work in the Wealthy World, New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Dutton, E., Warhurst, C., Lloyd, C., James, S., Commander, J., and Nickson, D. (2008), Just like the Elves in Harry Potter: Room Attendants in UK hotels in Low Wage UK, New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • James, S. (2008), Learning to Cook: Analysing Apprentice’s Knowledge and Skill Construction in the Workplace in Rauner, F. and Maclean, R. (eds.), Handbook of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Research, Germany: Springer.
  • James, S, and Lloyd, C. (2008), Supply chain pressures and migrant  workers: deteriorating job quality in the UK food processing industry in Low Wage UK, New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • James, S. (2007), To Cook or not to Cook: Participant observation as a data collection technique in Methodological Developments in Ethnography, 12, Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Hayward, G., and James, S. (2004), Producing Skills: conundrums and possibilities in Balancing the Skills Equation: key issues and challenges for policy, Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • James, S., and Hayward, G. (2004), Becoming a chef: the politics and culture of learning in Balancing the Skills Equation: key issues and challenges for policy, Bristol: The Policy Press.

Refereed Journal Articles

  • James, S., Warhurst, C., Tholen, G. and Commander, J. (2013) What We Know and What We Need to Know About Graduate Labour And Skills, Work, Employment and Society, 27(5).
  • Keep, E., and James, S. (2012). A Bermuda Triangle of Policy? ‘Bad jobs’, skills policy and incentives to learn at the bottom end of the labour market, Journal of Education Policy, 27(2).
  • Caroli, E., Gautié, J., Lloyd, C., Lamanthe, A., and James, S. (2010). Delivering flexibility: Contrasting patterns in the French and the UK food processing industry, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 48(2).
  • Lloyd, C., and James, S. (2008). Too much pressure? Retailer power and occupational health and safety in the food processing industry, Work, Employment & Society, 22(4).
  • James, S. (2006). Learning to Cook: Production learning environments in kitchens, Learning Environments Research, 9.

Working Papers and Issues Papers

  • Nokelainen, P., Stasz, C. and James, S. (February, 2014). What contributes to vocational excellence? A pilot study of the individual characteristics of the WorldSkills UK 2011 squad, SKOPE Research Paper, Cardiff: SKOPE.
  • James, S. and C. Holmes 2012. Developing Vocational Excellence: Learning Environments within Work Environments, SKOPE Research Paper no. 112, SKOPE: Cardiff and Oxford Universities
  • James, S., Warhurst, C., Commander, J., Lindsay, K., and Tholen, G. (2011), The Five Obstacles that Hamper Better Understanding of Graduate Labour and Skills, SKOPE Issues Paper 27, May, Cardiff: Cardiff University, SKOPE.
  • Keep, E., and James, S. (2010), What Incentives to Learn at the Bottom End of the Labour Market? SKOPE Research Paper No. 94, July, Cardiff: Cardiff University, SKOPE.
  • James, S. (2010), What is apprenticeship? SKOPE Issues Paper 22, July, Cardiff: Cardiff University, SKOPE.
  • Keep, E., and James, S. (2010), Recruitment and Selection – The Great Neglected Topic, SKOPE Research Paper No. 88, March, Cardiff: Cardiff University, SKOPE.
  • James, S. (2009), The Skills Training Levy in South Africa: Skilling the Workforce or Just Another Tax?, SKOPE Issues Paper 19, May, Cardiff: Cardiff University, SKOPE.
  • James, S. (2007), Adding new ingredients to an old recipe: NVQs and the influence of CATERBASE, SKOPE Issues Paper, Oxford.
  • Hayward, G., and James, S. (2004), Diversity in Learning: Establishing the Cognitive Styles and Learning Strategies of Young People in the Youth Justice System, Oxford: Department of Educational Studies.
  • Oh, S-A., Hayward, G., and James, S. (2002), Alternative Models of Provision Project Working Paper No. 3: Work-related Learning, Oxford: Department of Educational Studies.

Conference Papers

  • James, S. and Chankseliani, M. (2013). Can skills competitions help to raise the attractiveness of VET? SKOPE Employers Forum, Oxford, UK, 15 October.
  • Laczik, A., Chankseliani, M. and S. James. (2013). Benefits of Skills Competitions: Views and Experiences of World Skills Competitors from the UK, The European Conference on Educational Research, Istanbul, Turkey, 10-13 September.
  • James, S., Chankseliani, M., Holmes, C. and Laczik, A. (2013). Workplace learning environments and vocational excellence, Journal of Vocational Education and Training 10th International conference, Worcester College, Oxford, UK, 5-7 July.
  • Nokelaninen, P., James, S., Smith, H., Ali Rahimi, M. and Stasz, C. (2012). What contributes to vocational excellence? Characteristics and experiences of competitors in WorldSkills London 2011, World Education Research Association (WERA) Focal Meeting, Sydney, Australia, 2-6 December.
  • James, S., Commander, J., Tholen, G. and Warhurst, C. (2012) ‘Social skills matter: the case of estate agents’, British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Leeds University, UK, 11-13 April.
  • Tholen, G., James, S., Commander, J. and Warhurst, C. (2012) ‘Graduate skills or the skills of graduates, what matters most? An analysis from a graduatising occupation’, 30th International Labour Process Conference, Stockholm, Sweden, 27-29 March.
  • Nokelaninen, P., James, S., Smith, H., Ali Rahimi, M. and Stasz, C. (2012). What contributes to vocational excellence? Characteristics and experiences of competitors in WorldSkills London 2011, World Education Research Association (WERA) Focal Meeting, Sydney, Australia, 2-6 December.
  • James, S., Warhurst, C., Commander, J. and Tholen, G. (2012), ‘Higher Education: Graduate knowledge and skills or finishing school?’, Higher Education: Economic and Social Mobility Roundtable, Oxford University and Adelphi University, 16-18 October 2012.
  • James, S. (2010), What is apprenticeship? Paper presented to the Employers and Education Taskforce Conference, Warwick University, UK, 15th October.
  • James, S., Grunert, K., and Moss, P. (2008). The Food Processing Industry in Europe & the US: some case study evidence, Paper presented for the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) Conference, San Jose, Costa Rica, 21st-23rd July.
  • James, S. and Keep, E. (2010), Are bad jobs inevitable? Incentives to learn at the bottom end of the labour market, Paper presented for ILP Conference, New Jersey, U.S.A., 15th-17th March.
  • James, S. (2003), Qualifications, Professional Identity and Work-based Learning, Paper presented for RWL Conference, Tampere, Finland, 25th – 27th July.
  • James, S. (2003), Learning to Cook: the Dichotomous Nature of Modern Apprenticeships, Paper presented for AERA, Chicago, U.S.A., 21st – 25th April.

Reports

  • James, S., Holmes, C. and Mayhew, K. (2013). Learning Environments to Develop vocational Excellence. A Report to the National Apprenticeship Service. Oxford: SKOPE.
  • Mayhew, K., James, S., Chankseliani, M. and Laczik, A. (2013). Benefits of Developing Vocational Excellence. A Report to the National Apprenticeship Service. Oxford: SKOPE.
  • Nokelainen, P., Stasz, C. and James, S. (2013). What contributes to Vocational Excellence? A study of the WorldSkills UK squad 2013. A Report to the National Apprenticeship Service. Oxford: SKOPE.
  • James, S., Mayhew, K., Laczik, A. and Mordarska, M. (2013). Report on Apprenticeships, Employer Engagement and Vocational Formation in England. Oxford: Oxford University Consulting.
  • James, S., Warhurst, C., Commander, J. and Tholen, G. (2012), Skills, Work and Employment in the Real Estate Industry, report to AssetSkills Northampton, Oxford: SKOPE.
  • Nokelainen, P., Stasz, C., and James, S. (2012), Developing and Understanding Vocational Excellence: individual attributes and characteristics, report to WorldSkills UK, Oxford: SKOPE.
  • Nokelainen, P., Smith, H., Ali Rahimi, M., Stasz, C. and James, S. (2012), What contributes to vocational excellence? Overview from a study conducted at WorldSkills 2011, WorldSkills Foundation.

Editorial Review

  • Work, Employment and Society
  • Oxford Review of Education
  • Journal of Vocational Education and Training
  • British Journal of Industrial Relations
  • Journal of Education and Work
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Category

  • Department staff

College affiliation

  • Green Templeton College

Position

  • Director of Doctoral Research
  • SKOPE Assistant Director

Research groups

  • SKOPE

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