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Labour Market Information in practice

Using LMI effectively in guidance practice presents significant challenges. This section starts to explore some of these.


Defining labour market information (LMI)

Contribution from Sally-Anne Barnes and Jenny Bimrose

Information versus intelligence

Labour market information: data from a range of sources
Labour market intelligence: an interpretation of labour market information (LMI Matters!, DfES/LSC 2004)

    What is LMI?

    LMI comes from a wide range of sources and includes:

    • information on general employment trends (e.g. unemployment rates, skills gaps, future demand)
    • data on the structure of the labour market (i.e. what jobs exist, how many, which sectors)
    • information about the way the labour market functions (i.e. how people get into jobs & move between employers)
    • data focusing on equality and diversity (i.e. which individuals are employed in different sectors and at what levels?)

    LMI is variously defined as (LMI on Careers Service Web Sites in Higher Education, Offer 2003):

    • data about the workplace, including employment rates and salary information
    • any information about the structure and working of a labour market and any factors likely to influence the structure and working of that market, including jobs available, people available to do those jobs, the mechanisms that match the two, changes in the external and internal business environments
    • essentially data, statistics and research about the workplace including things like unemployment rates, salary, demand for, and supply of, labour

    In the context of LMI for information, advice and guidance (IAG), a distinction has been made between labour market information and labour market intelligence, where labour market information refers to raw quantitative or qualitative data found in original sources such as tables, spreadsheets, graphs and charts, with labour market intelligence relating to an interpretation of raw data, referring to subsets of information that has been subjected to further analysis (LMI Matters!, DfES/LSC 2004).

    What is LLMI?

    LLMI is Local labour market information or ‘real time LMI’, which is defined as:

    …information which relates to the labour market such as data on employment, wages, standards and qualifications, job openings, working conditions, which is updated with sufficient regularity such that the data can be considered a genuine representation of the labour market at all times. (Semple & Bimrose, 2006)

    LLMI is consistently identified by careers practitioners as centrally important to effective careers guidance practice. Equally, they consistently report their frustration regarding its absence. In particular, this relates to the gaps that exist at regional and (more particularly) at sub-regional level. Provision of these data would create more comprehensive labour market information (LMI) coverage to support further the work of practitioners. However, the potential to combine all existing local labour market information (LLMI) sources in an online LLMI facility is limited, because of their dynamism, number and range.

    Assessing LMI

    LMI is central to effective IAG practice. There is, however, a wide range of LMI freely available in the public domain from a variety of sources, which should not be used uncritically. How LMI should be assessed and judged in terms of both its quality and usefulness is complex. LMI needs to be assessed in terms of:

    • Who produced the LMI?
    • How the LMI was collected?
    • How the LMI data was disaggregated and classified?
    • Is the LMI up-to-date?

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    LMI in practice

    Contribution from Jenny Bimrose

    Giving labour market information (LMI) effectively

    There are competing views about how LMI is best given as part of the IAG process (Theories of Career Development, Osipow & Fitzgerald 1996). For example:

    • LMI should be given to clients by practitioners who, as the experts, use information to match their clients to the ‘best fit’ opportunities
    • Clients should be given direct, free and continuous access to high quality up-to-date LMI
    • Clients should be encouraged, as part of the IAG process, to develop their own research skills for LMI, so that they are empowered to search on a continuing basis without any further dependency on an ‘expert’ mediator
    • LMI should be mediated by experts so that it can be used for a variety of purposes (e.g. to raise awareness of labour market opportunities, to challenge misconceptions)

    These different approaches have fundamental implications for how LMI should be presented as part of the IAG process. Currently, there is no clear evidence base that suggests that one approach is more successful than another. There are, however, some guidelines and some underlying principles to help increase effectiveness.

    Principles underlying the use of effective labour market information (LMI) as part of IAG

    • Ensure that the client wants, and is ready to receive, LMI
    • Help clients relate the information to their own situation
    • Check clients have understood, accurately
    • Make sure that the LMI is appropriate for the client’s ability level and age
    • Ensure the LMI is as reliable and up-to-date as possible
    • Provide information in a manner that shows respect for clients and a genuine desire to help

    Skills for effective information giving (Applied Psychology for Social Workers, Nicolson & Bayne 1990) (based on research from a medical context)

    • Use short words and sentences
    • Avoid jargon
    • Repeat information
    • Be specific and detailed
    • Give examples
    • Wherever possible, categorise
    • Establish connections between situations and the information, using imagery and analogies
    • Suggest what to do – rather than what not to do
    • Summarise and pause
    • Vary presentation and/or tone of voice
    • Provide written back-up to emphasise key points

    Key challenges of using LMI in practice

    • Identify (what’s required?)
    • Retrieve (which sources?)
    • Interpret (what purpose?)
    • Disseminate (who is it for?)
    • Mediate (what does it mean?)
    • Where to find it?

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    Challenges, priorities, questions and action planning

    At a workshop event on 22 April 2005 at the University of East London practitioners, researchers, managers and employer representatives came together to consider some of the challenges being faced within guidance that relate to the use of Labour Market Information (LMI).

    LMI Challenges for the guidance community

    The challenges identified in the plenary session included:

    • coping with the volume and variety of data
    • data can be heavy with statistics and too technical
    • judging the immediate needs and long term trends whilst trying to create a balance between the two
    • ensuring information is geared towards, and useful to, adults as well as young people
    • creating mechanisms for the practitioner to feed in anecdote evidence
    • mediating equal opportunity data
    • making information accessible (i.e. client many not have access to a computer and the internet or the skills to conduct their own research)
    • using accessible language
    • keeping the information interesting and up-to-date for clients
    • getting information across to parents who are often ill-informed and are advising their children
    • creating a two-way relationship between employers and practitioners to be specific about what is needed (i.e. employer visits need to be more focused and targeted as opposed to routine)
    • networking and using local sources
    • improving the practitioner qualifications (i.e. vocational qualifications are about competence and not knowledge)
    • lack of advocacy for young people
    • getting information to those practitioners working in the voluntary sector

    Further points raised in the groups discussion included:

    • being able to start with basic information and then drill down to further more detailed information
    • knowing the trends
    • maintaining interest of those supplying information
    • enabling and ensuring time for practitioners to find out about LMI and keep their knowledge up-to-date
    • ensuring detailed and up-to-date information
    • highlighting the importance of local information
    • getting practitioners to inform subject tutors
    • knowing when to use LMI and understanding how it can be used
    • finding innovative ways of delivering LMI
    • supporting the practitioner to interpret the information
    • knowing what national, regional and local information is available and being able to compare/understand trends and interpret the data
    • ensuring that CEG programmes cover all aspects of LMI
    • knowing how the lived experiences of clients can be fed into understanding of LMI

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    Priorities for LMI in guidance

    There is a need to:

    • continue to lobby key figures to ensure commitment to LMI
    • raise awareness about how LMI is, and can be, mediated
    • help practitioners by providing adequate training to develop confidence in their skills to research and analyse LMI
    • allocate funding to ensure that information is kept up-to-date
    • prioritise or identify funding to pay for a Research Officer to support guidance staff by providing relevant and reliable LMI
    • ensure transparency of data so that people can feel confident about using it
    • include information aimed at young people, adults and the ‘career changer’
    • ensure that information is accessible at different levels (including age, ability, stage of career and change of direction for clients from overseas)
    • develop practitioners abilities and knowledge though capacity building
    • mediate, in a holistic way, what clients need without filtering out too much information
    • ensure LMI is made accessible: LMI should be simple, accessible (i.e. online) and real (i.e. using real people such as ex-students, employers etc. and employer visits)

    It was also noted the LMI guidance should deal with the different aspirations of clients and enable young people to interpret available information. In all instances LMI needs to be used constructively especially when it may appear negative.

    Other priorities for LMI include:

    • up-to-date information
    • local information and context
    • mixture of presentation
    • produced for user in mind
    • information on entry level requirements
    • trend data
    • relevant to individual clients
    • linked with local initiatives and employers

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    Possible questions for discussion linked to LMI

    Here you will find some of the questions posed by the UEL workshop participants in relation to LMI. Questions for consideration include:

    1. How can practitioners be supported in developing confidence in their skills to research, analyse, interpret and mediate LMI? How can this knowledge be maintained and developed?
    2. How can we secure commitment for the production of unbiased and up-to-date LMI?
    3. In what ways can LMI be more inclusive and accessible for both practitioners and clients?
    4. What changes need take place to ensure that vocational qualifications achieve a balance between competence and knowledge particularly with respect to LMI?
    5. How can relationships between practitioners and employers be developed to support local labour market information?
    6. What training could Sector Skills Councils offer that would be beneficial to practitioners?
    7. How can we ensure that the NGRF website is supported by the guidance community?

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    Turning ideas relating to LMI into action!

    What action needs to be taken and who should lead on these actions?

    • individual organisations could be used as mechanisms to lobby for impartial LMI
    • practitioners should be able to access training from Sector Skills Councils
    • employer visits should be more focused
    • LMI should be part of NVQ training and assessment and that the differences between different qualifications needs to be rectified (i.e. no LMI work involved in NVQ level 4)
    • the website should be supported by the guidance community so that it can be an important and impartial voice
    • there needs to be mechanisms for local partnerships (i.e. Job Centre Plus, Learning and Skills Councils and Department for Education and Skills) to feed into the website
    • on going training for practitioners in LMI
    • practitioners need to have an understanding of their local context
    • researchers and professional associations should be able to help practitioners analyse and interpret data
    • practitioners should be responsible for maintaining interest of local employers and organisation to provide local information whereas nationally there needs to be a recognised body or person
    • practitioner is responsible for understanding when and if LMI should be used (i.e. LMI should be used to focus on what jobs are available)
    • using the website to disseminate good practice and joining up the guidance community
    • maintain dialogues with other practitioners, employers, local organisations and professional bodies and nurture these partnerships.

    Discussion summary

    • Practitioners’ use of LMI: How is knowledge about researching, analysing and interpreting LMI developed and maintained? Would access to Sector Skills Council’s training be beneficial in supporting practitioners to develop sector specific knowledge? What should be included in vocational training and assessment to ensure that practitioners have the knowledge and competence to use LMI in guidance?
    • Training in LMI: There was some concern that LMI training is no longer a central part of the training and assessment of guidance practitioners.
    • Production of LMI: LMI needs to be transparent and impartial in order for it to be used confidently with clients; how then should it be produced, maintained and made accessible (including language, presentation and online availability).
    • Types of LMI: National and regional information is more accessible than local information, though local information is often most sought after. Is it the responsibility of the practitioner to develop this through activities such as employer visits?
    • Sharing good practice: This could be an efficient method of developing skills, knowledge and understanding. This would require regular dialogues with other practitioners, employers, local organisations and professional bodies.

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    Useful references on LMI

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