Lynn Gambin joined Memorial University’s Department of Economics as a faculty member in August 2016. This marked a return to Memorial and the Department as she had completed her BSc and MA at Memorial. Dr. Gambin completed her doctorate at the University of York (England) with support provided through the Rothermere Fellowship. She then held a one-year appointment at the University of Sheffield before moving onto the Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick where she spent more than a decade carrying out research on labour markets, vocational education and training, education and training systems and policies in the UK and Europe. Much of her research has been commissioned by government departments in the UK, non-governmental organizations, charities and employer and industry associations. She has published numerous reports and other outputs, including a variety of studies focusing on the returns to education and training, employer training activity, and sector skills needs. Since coming to Memorial, she has been teaching courses in microeconomics, macroeconomics, health and quantitative research methods.
What first sparked your interest in economics?
Initially, when embarking on my undergraduate studies at Memorial, I had intended to study chemistry with a view to going onto medicine or another health-related profession. After my first semester I realized that that particular subject was not something I could see myself studying for four years and I started to explore other disciplines. Taking my first two economics courses, I immediately decided that this subject was interesting and challenging and that the economics perspective was one that made most sense to me.
How has your own experience influenced your academic career?
I recall writing in my application for the Rothermere Fellowship that after completing my PhD, I wanted to return to Newfoundland to contribute to the province – and here I am (after 14 years in the UK). In the UK, I was based at a top ten university (University of Warwick) in a research-only department carrying out numerous applied research projects across various disciplines and my research has had real practical significance and policy implications. My interdisciplinary work and policy focus has strengthened my skills. Further, this work has reinforced my already held view that the research I do has to matter beyond just boosting my academic record - I want it to mean something to people or at least go some way in helping to improve people’s lives more widely through providing an evidence base to help in formulating and evaluating policies and programs, and guiding program delivery and finance.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever found yourself in the course of your research?
For one project looking at programs that facilitated interaction of employers with school students, we had to carry out fieldwork in various schools throughout England. We had early morning meetings, typically before the start of the school day. The places were not ‘weird’ but it was unusual in that at each school, in different regions, we were treated to breakfasts that were typical of the region - I never knew that what I would call hot dogs constituted an early morning meal or snack!
Other notable places: narrow stairwells and corridors under the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben; the back office of a charity shop (next to piles of donated clothes still being sorted); a local restaurant in Thessaloniki, Greece which had the best atmosphere and food but not the best red wine nor air quality (but I can’t wait to go back!).
Best view: from the 17th floor of the Shard in London for a project dissemination event.
What are you currently working on?
A variety of things at the moment:
- I’m currently working on extending and publishing some of my research on apprenticeships and other training and skills policy in England. Further to this, I am also looking to carry out similar research on such policies in Canada and drawing comparisons between programs.
- I recently chaired the Department of Economics’ forum on health outcomes and healthcare costs in NL. Colleagues in the Economics department and I are putting together a report on the event to summarize the proceedings. We will be working on identifying knowledge and research gaps in this area with a view to carrying out work in this area in future. I’m really looking forward to pursuing this area of research as there should be much opportunity to collaborate and engage with others in the university and also with policymakers and stakeholders.
- In a couple of weeks I will be attending policy dialogue meetings at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, looking at lifelong learning.
What has been the biggest success to date for you personally?
Professionally, I am proud of the body of work I’ve developed with my colleagues. I get a real sense of fulfilment knowing that it has been used in helping to formulate policy on skills and training in the UK and has helped further the research agenda in that area. In 2014/15, I was appointed as the Specialist Advisor to the House of Commons Education Committee for their Inquiry into Apprenticeships and Traineeships for 16 to 19 Year Olds. At the time, no other academic staff below the rank of professor had served in such a role on any of the Committee’s inquiries. It was a fantastic experience and gave me insight into the work of such committees and the inquiry process.
Personally, I see returning to the province as a success for me and my family. Overall, raising two amazing children whilst having a fulfilling and interesting career is my biggest and most rewarding challenge.
What is your philosophy in regards to research?
I am emphatic about the need to be clear about the underlying assumptions and limitations of any analysis. Being able to communicate research (the approach and the findings) to wider audiences is also crucial as is ensuring that the research I undertake is relevant to society in some way.
What sort of impact do you hope your research will have?
That it is at least used in policy debate if not directly in policy design. Economic analysis, in particular, can, through effective communication, help members of the public or particular groups in society to better understand the issues facing governments and service providers and what it all means for their own lives.
How do you feel your work is helping to boost Memorial’s national and international reputation?
I am still connected to research in the UK and Europe and intend to maintain this link. There are many lessons to be learned from experiences in delivering training and education in the European context (and further afield) and I continue to study policies and programs in a variety of settings through collaboration with researchers in Europe and joint authorship with colleagues there.
Within Canada, the work on healthcare and engagement with stakeholders, which should include working with researchers here at Memorial and across Canada, is something I am keen to pursue. This promises to be exciting, challenging and rewarding!
How is this research helping address the needs and opportunities for our province?
My previous research, carried out in the UK, carries many lessons for application in NL. My work on health and healthcare, education and training, skill mismatches and employer engagement in training is particularly relevant to the current situation facing the NL economy. I look forward to drawing on this experience and my expertise in such areas to further consider the fiscal, demographic and other challenges and opportunities facing the province.
How are you supporting the next generation of researchers and HQP (highly qualified personel)?
I currently work with one of our graduate students, Troy Osmond, on an ongoing basis to provide regular analysis of the province’s labour market performance.
I also coordinate the Economics Co-operative Education Option (ECEO) within the department.
I currently teach a quantitative research methods seminar course in the Masters in Employment Relations program in the Faculty of Business and in this course in particular I hope that my international and policy-oriented experience provides a richer experience for students.
I have also been involved in supervising and examining PhD students in the UK and am looking forward to supervising in the Interdisciplinary PhD program at Memorial in the near future.
What is the one thing you would like the general public to know about your research?
I like to emphasize that in policy and program evaluation and in other applied research I take a dispassionate view. My work is meant to build the knowledge base rather than push any particular view of the world or agenda. My research is driven by interest, curiosity and determination to have a positive impact on people’s lives.