An innovative industry needs an innovative workforce.  With its reputation for advanced technology and continuous innovation, the Australian cotton industry draws on the expertise of a range of workers, including on-farm workers and contractors, agronomists and consultants, and research scientists, to name a few.  Yet, there is the very real potential for disruptive new technologies to demand changes to workforce profiles of the industry. This challenge raises the question, what is the expertise—the personal strengths, knowledge, skills—that the future workforce needs to maintain and improve the cotton industry’s strong production outputs in a competitive market?

ACCELL and CRDC postdoctoral research fellow, Dr Nicole McDonald, is researching and developing practical strategies to support the cotton industry to attract and develop the next generation of expert workers.  Your input to this R&D is valuable. Please take 5 minutes to register your interest via the link below:


The first phase of Dr McDonald’s applied R&D project will identify:

  1. the career motivations of the next generation of workers,
  2. the workers who are set to innovate and capitalise on new technology, and
  3. the support and training needed to maximise the potential of these workers.

The findings of the R&D will inform evidence-based strategies for workforce management and development for cotton production businesses and, more broadly, the cotton industry.

CF - Cotton on_

Courtesy of Cotton Australia

Many cotton growers are advocates for attracting and developing new talent in the industry.  Excellent initiatives such as the Cotton Gap Year are proving very useful. There are obvious benefits to recruiting new talent and investing in training.  But, employing a relatively inexperienced recruit can be risky. And, transferring what is learned in training to enhance on-the-job performance can be challenging, particularly when new skills learned in training may be lost within a year if not put to good use. These are just some of the reasons why this R&D project is so important.

We want to support growers and other professionals in the cotton industry to ensure their future workforce is the best they can be, and that the cotton industry is the first choice for talented and capable young people making career decisions.


  • Do you work in a cotton industry profession either on-farm, or related to farm production (e.g., growers, farm hands, agronomists, consultants, scientists, researchers, extension officers, contractors)?
  • Are you someone who has been working in the cotton industry for 5 years or less?
  • Do you currently employ someone who has been working in the cotton industry for 5 years or less?

If  you answered “yes” to any one of these questions then we want to hear from you.  It takes only 5 minutes to register your interest via the link below:


This project is supported by the Cotton Research Development Corporation (CRDC).

Philosophical Considerations on Employability: That Matrix of Person, Context, and Relationships in the World of Work.

Employability is Not…

  • a shopping list of knowledge, and cognitive and behavioural skills; or
  • the probability of getting a job; or
  • owned by government or industry.

Employability is…

  • person-centred; and
  • context-sensitive; and
  • relational.

Employability is Person-Centred

Employability is a psychological construct comprising a mixture of dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and personally definitive life stories that are meaningful to identity construction, among social relationships, and within economic contexts related to work.  As a construct, employability is an intangible notion that is reflected in a person’s behaviour.  One cannot observe employability directly but one can observe its personalized expression in traits, adaptations, and stories in context.

  • Dispositional traits are relatively stable feature of a person are associated with specific behaviours.  Conscientiousness, for example, is a dispositional trait that is observed as a person’s active dedication to tasks and high levels of productivity in work.
  • Characteristic adaptations are relatively flexible and can be learned and developed over time and with experience.  Self-efficacy, for example, is an adaptation that comprises a person’s beliefs about ability to perform a certain task.  Self-efficacy can be learned by quality experiential learning, observational learning, persuasion, and positive emotional experiences.
  • Life stories are the definitive quality of an individual.  No one person has the same life stories; these are the quintessential narratives that make a person a truly indivisible individual.  A person’s life stories engage their past, present, and future, and, moreover, these stories are created in relation to past, present, and future with other people. The themes within a person’s stories make meaning from traits, adaptations, and experiences in the world.  Dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and life stories underpin an individual’s employment-related contemplation, decision-making, and actions toward attaining and maintaining a desired volume and type of work.

Employability is Context Sensitive

Employability is context-sensitive and can be understood within a turbulent confluence of factors that influence any given individual’s chances of working. An individual may enjoy great opportunities in one context but very few in another context, at another time, or another place. For example, a person who is qualified to practice a profession or trade in one country may not be in another.  Employability affects a person’s volition to engage with the new context.  In the context of a manufacturing plant redesign and restructure, a person trained in the mechanical operation of one machine requires the conscientiousness, self-efficacy, and meaningful reasons to actively engage in learning activities that enable the transfer of present expertise to another machine requiring additional expertise.

Employability may motivate an individual to acquire certain items on the shopping list of knowledge and skills that are in demand and, thereby, increase the probability of employment.  Thus, employability is reflected in an individual’s contemplation, decision, and actions to evolve as a person by acquiring additional knowledge and skills.  Employability is not the knowledge and skills per se; it is the propensity to understand their personal value and act toward their acquisition for deployment in a specific context.

Context and access to resources in context (e.g., knowledge, finances) may foster or inhibit a person’s employability.  For example, knowing how to acquire and critically appraise information about the world of work (e.g., job market requirements) is dependent on knowledge of context.  Furthermore, discovering information about affordable training and being able to afford it may be attractive to one person who recognizes the potential to personally benefit from the training; but, the same training may be inappropriate to the aspirations and volition of another person.

Employability is reflected in an individual’ characteristic adaptations and narratives that inform knowing the difference between what is appropriate and inappropriate training and, if choice is available, making an informed and meaningful decision and taking actions that benefit the individual. Inappropriate training is that which is irrelevant to an individual’s aspirations and goals that distinguish personal narratives.  Consider, for example, those workplaces in which staff are directed to take mandatory training in some particular topic that is essentially irrelevant to the person’s aspirations and goals, and failure to complete the training results in penalties such as withholding salary increments.  Also consider those governments which direct unemployed people to take on training with little relevance to their aspirations and goals, and instead merely soaks up precious time and resources needed for pursuing relevant opportunities, and then these governments impose financial restrains on the person for not completing the training. In these situations, there is no choice.  Being compelled to training by force of withholding salary increments or unemployment allowance is not a choice—it is conscription—and does little to enhance an individual’s sense of employability.

Employability is Relational

Work is done by people, with people, and for people. At every transaction of work there is a relational moment.  People do work in organizations, small and global, and an organization is a relational matrix. People work to provide for their families and their communities.  The ostensibly lonely solo consultant tapping away at a keyboard is producing something for someone. Thus, work and employability cannot be conceived of meaningfully without understanding the relational context.  An individual’s personally meaningful narratives about work are inevitably about oneself and another.

As an intrinsically relational activity, the meaningfulness of work is embedded in distal, broad spectrum cultures and discourses (e.g., at the level of a nation) and proximal, micro-cultures and discourses (e.g., within organizations, families).  Employment and employability–two ostensibly simple concepts–take on vastly different meanings and actions in different discourses.  The economist who is embedded in political institutions, endowed with power to create policies that affect the lives of individuals, cannot understand and talk about employment and employability in any other discourse than that which empowers him: economics.  This langauge of economics extends into the realm of human resources practitioners whose recruitment mechanisms reify the items typical on the  employability skills shopping list: communication, teamwork, problem solving, etc.  Educational institutions propagate this discourse in their own terms (e.g., graduate attributes) with synonymous meanings and equivalent intents.

An individual has little choice but to learn this discourse and perform with alacrity.  She must engage with the discourse; to do otherwise would cast her as an unrecognizable outsider unable to relate to others.  Unable to imbue herself in a given organizational culture by relational means (e.g., networking), her fettered attempts to secure employment will leave her inexorably dispirited. To this endeavour, “employability”, an individual must bring all her psychological resources: dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and definitive narratives.  Knowledge and skills alone will not suffice.


Blustein, D. L. (2006). The psychology of working: A new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge (A. M. S. Smith, Trans.). London, UK: Routledge.

Fugate, M., Kinicki, A. J., & Ashforth, B. E. (2004). Employability: A psycho-social construct, its dimensions, and applications. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65(1), 14-38. doi:DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2003.10.005

McAdams, D. P. (1995). What do we know when we know a person? Journal of Personality, 63(3), 366-396. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1995.tb00500.x

This article is the first in a series of philosophical musings about employability. The present article is by ACCELL’s Research Director, Dr Peter McIlveen. McIlveen argues that employability is about self-determination in context. Some scholars suggest that his perspective is too individualistic, that it does not sufficiently account for context, and that leads to a “blame the victim” perspective.  What is your perspective?

Employability Research Teams United

Flag 2

ACCELL has joined forces with the International Research and Intervention Laboratory: Psychology for Vocational Guidance and Career Counseling and Talents (LabOProCCareer&T), under the leadership of Professor Annamaria di Fabio, at the University of Florence, Italy.

ACCELL’s Research Director, Peter McIlveen (USQ) and Research Fellow, Allison Creed (USQ), presented an Australian flag to LabOProCCareer&T’s Research Director,  Annamaria di Fabio. The ceremony symbolizes the partnership between the two research teams. Professor di Fabio was honoured to receive the flag brought from the Toowoomba office of Dr John McVeigh, Member for the Seat of Groom in the Australian House of Representatives.

ACCELL and LabOProCCareer&T are conducting research that spans Italy, USA, and Australia.  The two teams are focused on the psychological qualities of employability that enable a person to best use their knowledge and skills in the labour market.

Like ACCELL, the LabOProCCareer&T research team focuses on vocational guidance, career counselling, career development and career management, with the particular goals of identifying and promoting individual resources and developing an evidence-base for effective, innovative interventions.  LabOProCCareer&T finds answers to questions that are important for education and workforce development:  Which factors play a role in career decision-making? Which factors promote adaptive career outcomes? Which factors contribute to the development of intrapreneurship for the 21st century? Which interventions are effective in promoting career and life management in the 21st century? Which are effective and efficient processes of recognition and enhancement of the talents and skills in a lifelong perspective?

More of us could work in part-time roles if they were designed better


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Part-time roles become difficult if that employee is the only source of knowledge, contact or sign-off.

Natalie Smith, Queensland University of Technology

Lisa was a young accountant with plenty of experience, solid references and was looking for work. She approached a large accounting firm she had previously worked for in another city in the hope of working with them again.

They were interested, except one thing stood in her way – she could only work part-time. Despite having award winning flexible work policies, this accounting firm wouldn’t employ her, citing the role could not be done on a part-time basis.

Lisa (not her real name) is typical of the 24 people I interviewed as part of my research. These men and women had requested to move to part-time roles in legal, information technology, accounting and consulting firms, having previously worked full-time.

Read more: Three charts on: how part-time work is growing more slowly, but more men are doing it

The roles for nearly half the participants I studied, and across all industries, had not been changed at all when moving to part-time. Performance targets and workload remained the same; only the pay had changed.

The employees had reduced their hours by getting rid of non-urgent tasks such as networking and meetings, and delegating work to team members.

In one case, a female employee had been told by her employer that she wasn’t meeting the same high performance ratings she had in her full-time role, despite achieving the same performance targets for less pay.

My research finds there are actually effective ways to change a full-time role into one that’s part-time. The size of an organisation, the industry, gender of employees or complexity of work have little bearing on this.

However businesses are not considering that these roles need to be redesigned in the first place and this causes problems in managing employees’ workloads and interacting with other employees.

The problems in redesigning roles as part-time

Even though it is possible to design a full-time role into a part-time role that works, there is little guidance on how to redesign. One of the places to start is reducing the number of people the employee interacts with, for example, the number of clients they look after, or the number of people who directly report to them.

Part-time roles become difficult if that employee is the only source of knowledge, contact or sign-off. For example if the employee is an IT manager who needs to be on call for clients for 37.5 hours a week, when typical part-time hours are less then 30 a week.

To redesign these roles, businesses can assign work to a team rather than individual, or team senior employees with junior employees. Employers can also provide systems to share knowledge rather than having one single point of expertise. I found that hospital pharmacists had a lot more flexibility in their roles because they use systems that allow them to share information effectively and quickly between colleagues.

Contrary to findings from other studies, deadlines are not necessarily problematic for part-time work. What is problematic is when tasks are both unpredictable and urgent.

One manager I interviewed said that urgent deadlines were often arbitrary and could be rescheduled. If there is urgent work to be done, employees can work in teams or the employer can renegotiate when part-time hours occur to suit the project deadlines.

The other challenge is that there is little incentive for organisations to reduce implicit work for part-time employees as it is often not measured and is done as unpaid overtime. Implicit work is work that is integral to a role, but not dealing directly with customers. It includes training, business development, travel, administration, staff management and team meetings.

While arguably an issue for all employees, implicit work becomes more problematic when working part-time. For example, an employee can’t do a fraction of a training course or only go away for a few hours of an interstate trip. To make all roles more manageable, particularly those working part-time, organisations should monitor and reduce implicit workloads.

Some of the businesses I studied also relied on the employees to make their part-time roles work, which resulted in minimal redesign of the role. Whereas other organisations weighed up what the employee wanted with the minimum requirements of the role.

This approach, where the employee and manager negotiated, meant the part-time arrangement worked better for both. Being clear on the “job absolutes” gave the part-time worker autonomy to adapt their work around other commitments.

Understanding how to redesign full-time roles to part-time helps debunk some of the myths that existed in some organisations. These myths included that program director and partnership roles could not be done part-time. My study found that part-time can be easier at more senior levels, because of the higher autonomy and less urgent, unpredictable work.

The ConversationHaving part-time roles available means more people can participate in the workforce. Given the economic benefits of this, and the increasing demand from younger and older workers for these sorts of roles, organisations will be left behind if they don’t accommodate well designed part-time arrangements.

Natalie Smith, PhD Student, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

ICCDPP 2017: The World’s Career Development Think Tank

Imagine a hall filled by a selection of leading thinkers and doers, sharing ideas, challenges, professional practices, and national policies reflecting their nations’ aspirations for educational and labour market outcomes. They all met in Seoul at the 8th Symposium of International Centre for Career Development Public Policy (ICCDPP), hosted by the the Republic of Korea’s Department of Education and KRIVET.  Evidently, career development is high on the agenda of many nations seeking to improve the employability of their citizens.

This ICCDPP 2017 coordinated the presentations and deliberations of 26 countries represented by Country Teams made of no less than 120 delegates.  Their deliberations were planned into an action-packed agenda.  This was no talk fest. Country Teams worked with one another and then crossed over into blended teams to formulate strategies and Action Plans for their respective countries.

Widening the Scope

Unemployment and underemployment are a scourge of international proportion that have devastating effects on health and well-being (Kossen & McIlveen, 2017). Knowing the destructive effects of the lack of decent work, the delegates described the usefulness of career development services for adults aiming to enter the labour market or transition from one job to another.  Career development services are proven to be effective and necessary for youngsters making career decisions about their futures (Whiston, Li, Goodrich Mitts, & Wright, 2017).  Preparing for their transitions from learning to earning is vital and their socio-economic prosperity and to a sustainable labour force.  In all nations, there is a pressing need for policies and programs for transitions throughout the whole of life, from formal schooling to retirement.

ICCDPP Country Teams’ Action Plans

In the coming weeks, Countries Teams will share their Action Plans with fellow delegates and key stakeholders in their homelands.  Their Action Plans will signal an international agreement emphasizing the benefits of career development services to individuals, their communities, and the productive industry sectors in which they work. Stay tuned for more updates.

The ICCDPP delegates were treated with extraordinary courtesy. The Korean hosts offered glorious hospitality and respect for peoples from other parts of the world. Hosts of the next symposium of the ICCDPP, the 9th, would do well to learn from Korea’s format and experiences.

The Key Messages

With such a diverse array of participants and topics from across the globe, it is necessary to condense the findings into a short and precise message: The Communique 2017

This year’s Communique captures several important themes.  One theme close to ACCELL’s interests is employability.  Read the Communique with your own nation in mind.  Consider the issues, trends, and consider how employability intersects with these important dimensions of your industry.


Kossen, C., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Unemployment from the perspective of the psychology of working. Journal of Career Development, 0(0). doi: doi:10.1177/0894845317711043

Whiston, S. C., Li, Y., Goodrich Mitts, N., & Wright, L. (2017). Effectiveness of career choice interventions: A meta-analytic replication and extension. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 100, 175-184. doi:

CDAA Keynote Speakers Podcast

The Career Development Association of Australia brought four keynote speakers to its 2017 annual conference of members and industry bodies.  Listen to brief interviews with Dr Ryan Duffy, Dr Ann Villiers, Dr Peter McIlveen, and Ms Marayke Jonkers, to learn more about their ideas for the field of career development.

Psychology of Working

ACCELL International Fellow, Dr Ryan Duffy, and ACCELL Research Director, Dr Peter McIlveen, emphasize issues associated with the psychology of working, decent work, unemployment, and evidence-based practice.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to CDAA Communications Officer, Georgia Kelly-Bakker, who recorded and produced the podcast.

Data Collections

ACCELL is currently collecting survey data for several research projects.  Please contribute to our work by completing one or more of the data collection sites linked below.


The project A-GRADES (Australian Graduates Employability Scale) aims to create a career development tool for students and graduates. It is intended that the tool be used to ascertain personal qualities related to career management and employment. Also, the tool may be used within learning activities that develop students’ career management knowledge and skills, and their preparations for employment. The tool will be useful to students, graduates, and university staff (e.g., career practitioners, work-integrated learning specialists).

Round 2 data collection for the purposes of validation of the A-GRADES measure is underway. If you are a current university student or a university graduate of any degree then please enter the A-GRADES survey site here.

Decent Work and Location

The notion of “decent work” refers to fair, safe, and equitable conditions of employment as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This project will contribute to that international study and also explore a range of factors, such as psychological flexibility, career adaptability, decent work, meaningfulness of work, work engagement, place attachment, and job satisfaction, that influence the wellbeing and retention of workers in non-metropolitan areas of Australia. If you are a current university student or a university graduate of any degree then please enter the survey site here.

Unemployment is Psychologically Destructive

The Psychology of Unemployment

ACCELL’s research into unemployment focuses on its social and psychological impacts on people who want to work but have no work or insufficient work to get by in life.  More importantly, ACCELL’s research and development is focused on determining and developing social and psychological resources that better enable individuals’ employability to survive, connect with one another, and live happier, productive lives.

Kossen McIlveen 2017 front page

Research recently published by ACCELL in the Journal of Career Development (Kossen & McIlveen, 2017) reveals a new and important perspective on unemployment.  The findings of this research show that unemployment can be understood in terms of the Psychology of Working Theory (Duffy, Blustein, Diemer, & Autin, 2016).

“I’m delighted to read about important research emerging from the psychology of working framework. Congrats to and colleagues.” Professor David Blustein, Boston College, USA.

Psychological Factors that Remediate Employability

The research demonstrates factors that may worsen a person’s chance of securing decent work. More importantly, the research pinpoints psychological factors that may also improve a person’s chances of getting decent work–and this is where ACCELL is focused on making a difference.  These so-called characteristic adaptations that improve a person’s chances of working in a good job can be learned.  For example, one of the most important factors is self-efficacy associated with well defined job search strategies that target the “right job” not just “any job”.  The “any job” strategy is a recipe for poor outcomes–despite what some politicians may say.  Professional career development practitioners (e.g., Career Development Association of Australia) know about these strategies and how to develop their clients’ self-efficacy.  Our R&D will sharpen the tools for improving their effectiveness and positive impact.


Duffy, R. D., Blustein, D. L., Diemer, M. A., & Autin, K. L. (2016). The psychology of working theory. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(2), 127-148. doi: 10.1037/cou0000140

Kossen, C., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Unemployment from the perspective of the psychology of working. Journal of Career Development, doi: 10.1177/0894845317711043.

This blog article is an extract from:

Kossen, C., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Unemployment from the perspective of the psychology of working. Journal of Career Development, doi:10.1177/0894845317711043.

A copy of the published version is available from the journal’s site or an “author pre-print version” is available at Peter McIlveen’s ResearchGate site.

Teacher Personality Profiles

The profession school teacher is as much rewarding as it is challenging. Our research into teachers’ careers reveals how their personalities influence their professional confidence (i.e., self-efficacy), engagement in their classrooms, and overall job satisfaction.   ACCELL researchers are aiming to discover if their are specific “profiles” associated with their confidence, engagement, and job satisfaction. This is important research because it provides  insights into how teachers manage their careers and, more importantly, which psychological factors may support their career longevity.

A sample of our research was presented at the most recent conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) held in San Antonio, Texas, USA, which is the largest meeting of educational researchers in the world.  The figure below provides a summary of our presentation at AERA 2017.  Stay tuned for the publications that will report on the wider research outcomes.

AERA 2017 Poster


A Measure of Decent Work

ACCELL has partnered with other researchers to establish an international benchmark measure of “decent work”.  We wish to better understand your experiences of decent work as it relates to where you live.

Please support our research by completing the Online Survey.

The notion of “decent work” refers to fair, safe, and equitable conditions of employment as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This project will contribute to that international study and also explore a range of factors, such as psychological flexibility, career adaptability, decent work, meaningfulness of work, work engagement, place attachment, and job satisfaction, that influence the wellbeing and retention of workers in non-metropolitan areas of Australia. Continue reading