So, the innovation agenda has been released. If you’re not in business, university, or research you are probably wondering what it means for you. But, if innovation is about improving something with a new idea or procedure or to produce a product using a new or better way, it is essential our entire economy (not just parts of it) are involved to ensure diverse perspectives are brought to the problems we face. BUT TAFE (Technical and Further Education) and the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector more broadly are not mentioned once in the statement even though there are 10s, if not 100s organisations in this sector.
According to Australia.gov.au the VET sector plays a role in Apprenticeships, Arts training (in film television and radio), general practice training as well as ICT entry-level programs in government.
Here I five areas I reckon VET has a lead role to play in making the innovation agenda a national success, improving Australia’s international standing and contributing to the ideas boom:
- Work-integrated learning: VET, by its nature, is heavily connected to industry. Arguably more so than the university sector. Thus, they likely have lots to offer universities in terms of experience connecting and translating classroom activities into real-world outcomes as well as real-world problems into VET-led solutions. The work-based learning approaches often implemented by VET sector educators have a direct impact on workplace learning cultures and the implementation of innovative (new) systems and processes.
- Training the workforce of the future: people educated through the VET sector will build the national collaborative infrastructure that is essential to research success. Researchers, university graduates and VET graduates will need to work together to define the vision of success and subsequently implement it. Fundamental engineering and building skills will be essential, not to mention the government-based ICT programs that will transform government from a follower into a leader of innovation in Australia.
- Linking to the world: our VET sector already has strong links to Asia. As much as landing pads in Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley will be outstanding, they represent red oceans. Instead, we should be focusing on innovation links with Asia, where there are few (if any) Tel Aviv or Silicon Valley equivalents and thus an opportunity to swim in a blue ocean.
- STEM Literacy: to date, STEM appears to be the domain of the university sector. Although we look to promote it in primary and secondary school, universities are seen as the purveyor of this education approach. TAFE (and VET more broadly) have a huge role to play in making clear the role STEM plays in the lives of their students and graduates. Just think of the amount of STEM builders, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians do.
- Research translation: TAFEs (and VET more broadly) are not seen as high-producers of research. Yet they should be. Everyday they work closely with industry to solve problems and these could easily be written up as research or evaluation projects. They also have access to a vast network of educators who have a huge knowledge of how to engage people from a range of socio-economic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds with preferences for a range of learning styles. They are also adept at delivering education through innovative modalities. All of this could be developed and written up with research components, and translated into other educational settings.
I am sure you can think of more.
Raven Consulting Group specialises in delivering high quality strategic advice to the education, research and government sectors. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping organisations achieve their full potential. His strategic approach to collaboration and research translation has been making the impossible possible for more than seven years. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality. To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email (Richard.email@example.com) or subscribe to our newsletter.