This report examines the linkages between innovation and skills development in vocational education and training (VET) across three industry sectors: mining, solar energy and computer gaming. Using a case study approach, the research finds that each of the industry sectors differs in their relationship between innovation and the education and training system. However, the formal VET system is seen as being very important in teaching the underlying skills and knowledge of a vocation. In contrast, informal on-the-job learning imparts the actual skills for innovation, but based on what was learnt formally. The VET system is seen as being slow in responding to new skills needs; however, whether this represents a bad thing is debatable.
About the research
Innovation is thought to improve productivity at the firm level and economic prosperity at the national level. This would seem to have implications for the skills and skills development of employees. However, little is known about the relationship between skills development and innovation.
This report is the culmination of case studies exploring the interrelationship between innovation and education and training in three industry sectors—mining, solar energy, and computer gaming.
- Each sector experiences differing drivers of innovation and different processes of diffusion, with consequential differences in how the sector relates to the vocational education and training (VET) sector.
- Creative and skilled people are at the heart of the innovation process, so the greatest contribution that formal VET can make is in establishing foundational knowledge and understanding, which build the capacity to learn.
- Informal skills development plays a crucial role in providing the actual skills for innovation (such as using new equipment or processes), although theory learnt in formal education is also important.
- The present model of training packages, and the model of competency-based training which underpins it, have advantages in providing a common skills language but may hinder effective innovation because of the focus on current competencies rather than future innovation.
- VET providers are seen as slow to pick up on innovation.
The messages are a fundamental challenge to the VET sector. They suggest that the focus on the competencies currently required by industry is misplaced—if we think innovation is critical. Rather, more emphasis should be placed on foundational knowledge, theory and building the capacity to learn.
Managing Director, NCVER