How does Vocational Education and Training work

how vocational education has solved unemployment and how important is vocational education and how has vocational education changed
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JuliyaMadenta,Philippines,Researcher
Published Date:15-07-2017
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Vocational education and training and innovation : Research readings Susan Dawe ed. NCVER Vocational education and training and innovation Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readings investigates the innovation process in industry and how the Australian vocational education and training sector is contributing to this. Research readings Edited by Susan Dawe ISBN 1 920895 72 8 print edition ISBN 1 920895 73 6 web editionprelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 10 Overview Hugh Guthrie and Susan Dawe This book of readings was commissioned to enable a better understanding of the past, present and future role of the Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector in business innovation. This collection considers what the innovation process in business means for Australian workers and identifies the contributions of the VET system. International comparisons offer insights into those elements missing or under-emphasised in the current Australian innovation system. Finally, strategies to enable the VET sector to engage with business innovation are illustrated through examples. This overview introduces the book and discusses important findings and common messages from its chapters. What is innovation? HE READINGS IN this book have been chosen to highlight the innovation process in industry and how vocational education and training can, and Tis, contributing to it. A number of different perspectives are presented. First of all, however, let us consider the concept of innovation. It is generally agreed that innovation involves doing something new or doing existing things in a new way, although, in his chapter, Kearney argues that it is only when ‘doing something new or differently’ is commercialised or applied in the community that it becomes an ‘innovation’. Moreover, his definition of innovation states that, to be an innovation, it must add value to a business operation or be useful to the community in which it is applied. Innovations cover a wide spectrum, from high-profile scientific discoveries to low-profile changes in existing processes or practices. Pickersgill, offering a historical overview, points out that the Australian skilled workforce has been involved in adaptive innovation of European and American products and processes to Australian conditions since colonial days. Curtain, in his chapter, also refers to ‘organisational innovation’ (changes in work practices) and ‘presentation innovation’ (changes in design and marketing) in which vocational education and training has played a role. Australian Government policy to date has focused on the high-profile innovations as represented by the co-operative research centres. While 10 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readingsprelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 11 vocational education and training should have a role to play in these, to date the contribution of this sector has been relatively insignificant (see chapter by Whittingham, Ferrier & Trood). However, in a recent publication for the Committee for Economic Development in Australia, Smith (2004) noted that we need to move from this ‘scientific discovery’ notion of innovation to one which also embraces continuous learning. Innovation in the major industries on which Australia’s economy rests occurs in this way. These industries are indirect users of research and development, and are innovative largely as a result of re-combining or adapting technology or knowledge. This innovation is driven, as Bennett, Brunker and Hodges suggest, by such drivers as the search for competitive advantage—new and untapped market places, updated technologies or needed organisational change. Often, as we shall see later, these innovations involve developing useful relationships and partnerships with other organisations. Innovation, especially process and incremental innovation, depends on a skilled workforce and this will be doubly so in the future. As Curtain so eloquently reminds us, it is enterprises, not governments, which are at the heart of the innovation process. Enterprises take new ideas, turn them into a product or service and then market the result. In turn, they need the right people with the right skills and knowledge to help them do this. People are the innovators. VET’s role in business innovation in Australia Pickersgill provides an historical perspective to innovation in Australia, and the role played by the VET sector. He argues that product and process innovation in Australia since colonial times demonstrates the integration of Australian industry with the rest of the world. The colonial settlers studied information about the latest scientific and technological developments from Europe and America. Skilled migrants arrived with the new equipment imported by the settlers. However, the new equipment and ideas needed to be adapted to the local conditions. Thus, innovation in Australian industry generally occurred through the extension and modification of existing technologies to new purposes. Technical training was developed to support the growing workforce as there was relatively limited access to both secondary and university studies in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Since Australia had relatively little public research and development capacity, business innovation typically relied on VET-trained workers rather than research and development departments. According to Pickersgill, the lesson that history can provide is that, if technical and other forms of education and training are to be successful, they need to be based on practical developments in current workplaces. International comparisons offer insights into the elements which are missing or under-emphasised in the current Australian innovation system. Curtain uses Overview 11prelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 12 Finland and Singapore as examples of the important role of human capital in economies with strong track records in innovation. While Australia has improved its innovative capacity, it has not performed as well as its international competitors in the research and development and scientific discovery end. While Australia is ranked in the top six Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for government expenditure on research and development, business investment in innovation is far below comparable OECD countries. This results in a lack of capacity for commercialising innovative ideas which are generated in Australia—hence, the Australian Government’s focus on innovation. From experiences in the United Kingdom and United States, Curtain suggests that there is a danger in focusing only on those innovations concerned with high technology as contributors to economic growth. As he points out, the application of new knowledge and processes to ‘low tech’ industries (such as vegetable production and marketing) can have a marked effect on the success of an enterprise. These ‘low tech’ industries are those which are traditional VET sector markets. To enhance the links between the VET sector and business innovation in Australia, Curtain makes two suggestions, namely: ❖ Access to government research and development funding, focusing on processes and development rather than pure research, would bring the VET sector in Australia closer to business innovation. ❖ Government research and development funding to the VET sector could be solely focused on small and medium-sized enterprises. According to Toner (2004), in other countries, such as Finland, Germany and the United States, public vocational colleges are an important part of national innovation policies. The colleges run innovation diffusion programs to encourage the uptake of technologies and raise the average level of firm productivity—especially in small-to-medium-sized firms. These programs include a broad range of consultancy, technology demonstration and applied research and development functions, which are separate from traditional classroom teaching. In their chapter, Toner, Marceau, Hall and Considine identify innovative industries and firms in Australia, and examine the role of technical occupations in these firms. Those factors identified as strongly stimulating innovation were also identified as strongly stimulating training. Such factors include investment in new equipment, strong competition based on product differentiation, quality, reducing product cycles, timeliness of supply and integrating product services. Also important is consultation with workers, suppliers and customers for product and process improvements, and well-functioning linkages with external research and educational institutions. 12 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readingsprelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 13 According to these authors, innovation-intensive firms especially value the practical orientation of VET training. They seek flexibility in training arrangements, such as on-the-job delivery and customised training, to link off- the-job training directly to specific on-the-job work practices. Close collaboration with industry partners will enable VET providers to ensure the appropriate balance of practical and theoretical skills. Kearney examines the evolving workplace. He suggests that innovative and successful companies align their organisational culture, systems, processes and resources so that they are focused on meeting corporate goals. Openness, trust and diversity in the workforce are essential for a culture of innovation, he says. If the VET sector is to play a role in the innovation process, then it must provide a learning environment which also reinforces and develops these qualities. According to Kearney, innovative companies also recognise the value that different perspectives can bring to the creation of new products and services, the solving of problems and the generation of new opportunities. Such companies invest in their human capital, empower their people and create free spaces for learning to occur. Innovative businesses strive to attract new skills to the organisation, or make better use of the skills they already have. Individual creativity and innovation skills are important components of this diverse workforce, and they need to be addressed by VET providers. Bennett, Brunker and Hodges discuss some key human capital challenges to be faced in ensuring that the Australian economy maximises opportunities for innovation and economic growth. They believe the key drivers to be competition, intellectual property rights and a culture of innovation supported by a strong knowledge base. These will help generate new ideas and realise effective commercialisation. These writers believe that a culture of innovation is dependent on fostering problem-solving, creativity, entrepreneurship, initiative and drive. They also note that many small enterprises are owned and operated by people who have developed their human capital outside the higher education system. Many of these operators have developed their skills and knowledge within the VET sector. Misko, Saunders and Woods describe the training needs of companies which are developing new ideas and applying ‘innovative technologies’. They note that, in the early stages, innovative companies tend to employ staff with the highly specialised skills and knowledge needed. As the companies shift from experimentation and development to production and marketing, their workforce grows and their training needs become more conventional. According to these authors, any training needed by companies in the early stages of innovation is for relatively small numbers of employees and often ahead of the knowledge or skills in existing training courses. However, VET providers are well placed to build on current training courses and customise Overview 13prelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 14 training for these companies. During this process VET staff also gain access to the latest technologies and procedures—and companies gain access to VET training expertise in their development phase. Thus collaborative approaches between these companies and training providers can be mutually beneficial. Whittingham, Ferrier and Trood note that the VET sector is not as involved as it should be in the national innovation system as represented by Australia’s co-operative research centres. Many of these centres are working towards improving products and processes for existing industries but there is no systematic process to ensure that new knowledge and skills created in the centres flow to the VET sector. They conclude that, overall, about 60% of co-operative research centres’ programs were conducted in areas where there was an existing VET program or course. They believe that the co-operative research centres need to recognise the VET sector as an end-user of their research outcomes, and a useful contributor to design and applications of new tools, systems and processes. In addition, the VET sector is a primary stakeholder in the transfer process for the successful adoption and implementation of their outputs in industries and enterprises. Strong connections were defined by Whittingham and colleagues as ‘a committed relationship generally formalised in an agreement or strong personal long-term commitments’. Of more than 60 centres in existence, strong connections with the VET sector occur in about ten centres, notably in the fields of agricultural and rural-based manufacturing, environment, and manufacturing technology. Where the links are strongest, benefits flow both ways. Centres gain from the skills and experience of VET personnel and their industry links, while the VET sector benefits through new opportunities for professional development of teaching staff and fee-for-service provision of training. Establishing long-term connections with the centres will help ensure that the currency of VET programs is maintained, the training needs of emerging industries, enterprises and individuals are met, and the knowledge and skills of VET staff remain close to the forefront of practice. Loble and Williams discuss the need to re-position skills policy within economic and labour market policy. Critical to this is the development of a new skills policy framework—’skillecosystems’. Skillecosystems are independent clusters of skills within regions or industries shaped by the nature and networks of firms, products and processes, markets and market regulations, key institutions, policies and regulatory authorities. According to these authors, simply increasing the supply side—the quality and quantity of skills regardless of what those skills are—will not in itself create more or better employment or lead to economic growth. The challenge of reconciling supply with demand is broader and requires increasing the demand side. They note that innovation is not an entirely random process and can be promoted by specific policies, especially skillecosystems. One example cited in 14 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readingsprelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 15 their chapter is the Water Innovation Network consortium, which includes United Water and Torrens Valley Institute of TAFE in South Australia. A second demonstration project is technology-transfer through Swinburne University of Technology, TAFE Division in Victoria. In conjunction with the Microtechnology Co-operative Research Centre and its prototyping offshoot, MiniFab, Swinburne is leading a project to promote knowledge and application of microtechnology across small-to-medium-sized manufacturing enterprises in Victoria. In summary, it seems that the VET sector can have at least five roles in the innovation process: ❖ monitoring innovations and assessing their impact and relevance for VET programs ❖ developing appropriate relationships with suppliers of new equipment and technology and customising programs to meet the specific training needs of their customers ❖ assisting, through skills development, the successful transfer and adoption of new innovations in industries, companies etc. ❖ fostering and building innovation skills, especially problem-solving, creativity, entrepreneurship, initiative and drive in its students ❖ working collaboratively with industry or research and development organisations, particularly focusing on processes and development rather than pure research, and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. As described in the next chapters of the book, linkages and partnerships with businesses should be carefully assessed for their relevance to core VET business. They should only be taken up if adequate benefits can be identified. VET and business: Improving linkages and partnerships Callan identifies nine characteristics of innovative enterprises. These enterprises create learning cultures, make innovation a core capability, identify their innovators and reward people for bringing forward innovative ideas. They also use partnerships to bring in new knowledge which drives further innovation, have leaders who are risk-tolerant, develop teams and cross-functional teams, create communities of practice which meet regularly to discuss common interests, and provide places to be innovative. After examining VET organisations against these nine characteristics, Callan contends that the development of innovation in training providers can be described at best as ‘uneven’. Some exceptional individuals and teams within VET institutions are leading the way in developing more responsive and flexible Overview 15prelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 16 training for industry. While no single VET institution is regarded by Callan as an ‘innovative organisation’ that has innovation as a core capability, many have begun the journey. He argues that innovation in the strategic planning process would strengthen this capability across the whole organisation. Callan also notes that successful innovation requires an ability to harvest ideas and expertise from a wide array of sources. His research describes the use of partnerships to promote innovation and empower VET staff at all levels to develop new and different ways of meeting the training needs of employers. In Callan’s view, the best way to do this is through more formal partnerships, which find ways for organisations to share their skills and knowledge. Partnerships are more likely to mean that innovative projects are allowed to continue, despite cut-backs or changed priorities. This is because of the vested interest of all parties in their continuation. Earlier chapters in this book also note the benefits to be gained from VET partnerships with industry. This includes competing organisations which may apply their skills and resources in innovative ventures. In their chapter, Lindhjem and Royle note the importance of this form of collaboration, which they call ‘co-optition’, whereby one training provider works with other public or private training providers to share knowledge, skills or resources in a joint venture. The remaining chapters in this book focus on examples of the strategies which VET providers use to engage with business innovation. The authors focus on strategic planning, cost–benefit analysis, change management, curriculum initiatives, and engaging with new technology. Strategic planning Chennell describes the strategy used by Central TAFE, the largest technical and further education (TAFE) college in Western Australia, to become an innovative participant in the knowledge economy and provide linkages to clusters of industry players. These included manufacturers, suppliers, educational and research institutions and government agencies. Their conceptual framework, called ‘Central Innovation’, started them on their innovation journey and uses an industry cluster approach. By identifying specific target areas of strength, and focusing resources in these areas, the college is able to build expertise, and leverage funds and industry support. In late 1999, the Western Australia Department of Training, in conjunction with the State Training Board, established the Science and Technology Innovation Fund. This fund provided Central TAFE with the opportunity to launch their applied research and development strategy and undertake research in a range of selected fields. This enabled acquisition of cutting-edge equipment and allowed students to be actively engaged in the research which, in turn, enhanced skills acquisition and student satisfaction. 16 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readingsprelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 17 Assessing the potential risks, costs and benefits Lindhjem and Royle describe the importance of forming collaborative links or partnerships. They note the risk associated with entering new markets, and believe that this risk may be reduced by making careful choices about which emerging industries and training providers to work with. The Opportunity Analysis Model is one tool which assists strategists to assess the opportunities available for work within emerging industries. The model facilitates consideration of the opportunities, risks, costs and benefits associated with participation in such ventures. Change management and organisational renewal Kangan Batman TAFE used the establishment of Victoria’s new Automotive Centre of Excellence as the catalyst to build innovative capability. Browne, O’Sullivan and Julian describe the process of setting up a trial for the systematic development of innovative practice in the institute. This approach built on earlier research undertaken by Ratio Pty Ltd and presented in the publication Innovation ideas that work (ANTA 2002). Kangan Batman TAFE began building the organisation’s innovation capacity by developing innovation skills of staff who were selected from across the organisation (described as a vertical or diagonal cross-organisational staff team). This staff team then applied these skills to a work-based project. To support the resulting change in organisational culture, the staff also developed the leadership skills and organisational systems required. This is referred to as the ‘inside-out approach’, in contrast to the more usual ‘outside-in approach’. Three factors—time, training in innovation skills, and goals—were identified as critical to successful outcomes in building an innovative culture in the automotive group at Kangan Batman TAFE. Curriculum initiatives Down, in her chapter, describes the Applied Technology Framework, a curriculum initiative being trialled by the plumbing, waste management and precision manufacturing industries in conjunction with facilitators from the RMIT University. University staff assist workers to develop the skills of reflecting on their work practices and assessing what they have learnt. Down also discusses the Applied Technology Framework as a mechanism for extending national training packages. This framework concentrates on the recognition of current skills and knowledge, and the requirement for workers to continue learning in the future. This includes development and delivery of flexible applied technology programs with effective articulation pathways and multiple entry and exit points. Opportunities for cross-sectoral skill development and relatively short intensive programs are also features of the framework. Overview 17prelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 18 Engaging with new technology The last chapter provides an example of how industry is using the education sector to conduct research and development. Paez, Wilkes and Gurgone describe how staff and students at Central TAFE in Western Australia are engaging with an innovative application of speech recognition technology. This initiative is part of the Liberated Learning Project, which involves an international consortium comprising foundation partners, IBM Research in New York, the Alexander Graham Bell Institute of the University of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, St Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada, and other universities and colleges. In Australia, the University of the Sunshine Coast and Central TAFE staff are pioneering and expanding the use of speech recognition technology to assist students with special needs, such as those with disabilities and those from non- English speaking backgrounds, in tertiary education lecturing and instructional settings. In Liberated Learning classrooms, lectures are transcribed in real time using automated speech recognition technology and projected to the class, enabling students to ‘see’ the lecture. Students at Central TAFE now have access to a range of multimedia material. They may access video, audio, software- generated text, and PowerPoint presentations, either individually or in any combination, depending on their learning preferences. Key messages Innovations may range from high-profile scientific discoveries to low-profile changes in processes or practices. The two common elements are that they are doing something new or differently which adds value to a business operation, or is useful to the community in which it is applied. To date, Australian Government policy has focused on innovation based on scientific discovery and research and development. Although publicly funded research and development in Australia compares well internationally, local business investment in this type of innovation is comparatively low. This results in a lack of capacity to enable commercialisation of innovative ideas. Australian Government policy needs to move from this ‘scientific discovery’ notion of innovation to one which sees it as a continuous learning process. This is the way innovation occurs in the major industries on which Australia’s economy rests. These industries are indirect users of research and development, and innovation is largely based on re-combining or adapting knowledge. It is in this area that the VET sector has played, and will continue to play, an important role. There is also a role for vocational education and training in diffusion of technology throughout the workforce, a role which has not been fully tapped to date. 18 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readingsprelims.qxd 9/11/04 12:38 PM Page 19 Work practices and workforce skills are critical to the innovation process. VET programs increasingly will need to develop an individual’s capacity to think and act creatively with confidence. VET providers need to work closely with industry, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to introduce or implement innovation. This means government funding has to be available to VET providers to support such partnership development and programs; funding for teaching alone is not sufficient. VET providers have an important role to play in providing training for innovative enterprises, but this may require working more effectively across disciplines and developing more personalised arrangements for delivery. VET providers need to identify where their strengths lie and build industry partnerships in these areas. Close collaboration with industry partners will enable VET providers to ensure the appropriate balance of practical and theoretical skills. References ANTA (Australian National Training Authority) 2002, Innovation ideas that work: For trainers of innovation and work skills, ANTA, Brisbane, viewed June 2004, http://www.anta.gov.au/publication.asp?qsID=309. Smith, K 2004, ‘A perspective of the knowledge economy in the Australian context’, in Innovating Australia, ed. I Marsh, Committee for Economic Development in Australia, Melbourne. Toner, P 2004, Keeping up with technology: A pilot study of TAFE and the manufacturing sector, NCVER, Adelaide. Overview 191-pickersgill.qxd 9/11/04 12:23 PM Page 20 The engagement of vocational education and training and innovation in Australia Some historical perspectives Richard Pickersgill Charles Sturt University (Wagga Wagga Campus) The significance of the state’s role in developing colonial and post-Federation Australia is undisputed. As a ‘settler society’, its development into an industrial society followed some unique paths. The relatively small average size of (most) private firms combined with large public enterprises encouraged the development of skilled occupational labour markets where workers move between firms, rather than the internal labour markets whereby recruitment and career progression are conducted inside an organisation or enterprise. Internal labour markets are more characteristic of North American and Japanese firms. A reliance on foreign investment to expand production (accelerated after the Second World War) has been a primary means of technology transfer. Although there are important areas of basic science where Australia has made significant contributions, historical circumstances have emphasised process innovation, rather than radical innovation in Australian industry. Although ‘VET’ is a recent acronym, ‘technical education’ has had an important role in Australia from the colonial period to the present. Free and secular primary education was established from the 1870s, but public high schools were a twentieth-century development. However, an extensive network of publicly funded schools of mines and industry, colleges of agriculture and technical institutes established prior to Federation continued to expand. Technical education in different states, notably New South Wales and Victoria, developed different institutional characteristics. However, all systems emphasised instruction in broad occupationally defined skills, rather than narrow job-specific skills. This reflected the specific nature of Australian industrial and agricultural development. Historically, Australian industry has emphasised incremental and process innovation, rather than radical technological breakthrough which depends on a skilled workforce educated through vocational education and training (VET) institutions. 20 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readings1-pickersgill.qxd 9/11/04 12:23 PM Page 21 Introduction HE ADOPTION OF the acronym ‘VET’ in Australia in the context of a national vocational education system is quite recent. Under the Australian TConstitution, the responsibility for education (including technical education) is a state responsibility. Although the Commonwealth had progressively become involved through specific purpose grants following the Kangan report (Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education 1974) in the mid-1970s, ultimate responsibility for vocational education and training remained with state systems. Following the establishment of the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) in 1993, the current national VET system incorporates a range of financial and administrative features which reflect Commonwealth rather than state-specific priorities. These include the progressive adoption of a national curriculum and credentialling system, substantial federal direction and funding, and a political decision to shift the training system from an administrative model to one purportedly incorporating, and responsive to ‘market’ or ‘demand side’ forces. The new integrated national system is based on agreement between federal and state governments, not constitutional authority. Superficially, the establishment in the 1990s of a national system may be seen as a radical break with previous state-based systems. From an historical perspective however, the differences are less significant than the continuities. National core curricula in many of the trades and other occupations were also an outcome of federal special purpose funding following the Kangan report (Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education 1974). Occupational structures and the influence of professional associations (for example, Lloyd 1968, 1984) had, in any case, functioned to ensure that core components of syllabuses were similar amongst the states, whether or not these were directly recognised as ‘national’ by individual state systems, or state-based accreditation or licensing authorities. A ‘fitter was a fitter’ irrespective of the state in which off-the-job training occurred. Occupational status was recognised by the labour market, and supported by industrial award classifications. The recent direct Commonwealth influence and funding for vocational education and training may be interpreted as an extension of other earlier post-war Commonwealth assumption of responsibility in tertiary and school education. However, this involvement continues to reflect the high level of public rather than private investment in education and training, which has been a feature in Australia since the provision of free secular primary education in the 1870s. Asketch of developments across 200 years inevitably must rely on secondary sources. Unfortunately, readers in search of general history of technical and vocational education are, with the exception of Murray-Smith (1987), not particularly well served. That technical education, particularly its relation to The engagement of VET and innovation in Australia 211-pickersgill.qxd 9/11/04 12:23 PM Page 22 industrial development, has not been subject to more detailed historical scrutiny 1 by educationalists is somewhat surprising. At the time of Federation, there were only three state high schools in Australia, all in New South Wales, although that same state had over 30 technical colleges serving both youth and older workers, and from the 1870s, all colonies had introduced a range of technical institutes, schools of mines and industry, agricultural colleges, technological museums and universities with chairs and departments in the natural and applied sciences. Even with the growth of high school systems in the twentieth century, most students still left at intermediate rather than matriculation level. High retention rates are a late twentieth-century phenomenon. The ‘tech’, not high schools or universities was the main formal route to a skilled occupation. A national system of innovation? The significance of ‘innovation’ as a key to national economic development has been most recently raised in the federal government’s innovation action plan Backing Australia’s ability (Commonwealth of Australia 2001). Innovation is seen as playing a crucial role in what has been termed the ‘new economy’, ‘knowledge economy’, ‘knowledge-based economy’ or ‘learning economy’ (for example, OECD 1992, 1999; Reich 1991; European Commission 1995; Marceau & Manley 2001). It is argued that ‘knowledge will be the new international currency and our success in creating and using that currency will determine our future economic and social well-being’ (Veenker 2001, p.2). As Porter (1990, pp.20–1) notes, the key issue is to explain the role of the nation in innovation, and why some nations provide an environment more conducive to innovation than others. An unstated assumption in popular literature and current Australian policy statements is that ‘innovation’ is primarily equated with radical scientific and technological breakthroughs (Pickersgill & Walsh 2003). Yet in practice, much innovation is process-oriented, mundane and incremental in character. This latter form, as Todd (1995) has noted, has been typical of Australian industry. It suggests that Australian innovation policies could profitably take account of this less spectacular aspect of the innovation process. Two general features have been significant to the development of an Australian system. The first has been the relatively small size of the local labour, 1 Goozee (2001) has written a post-Kangan history of TAFE, and there are general histories of education or specialist histories which include general references to technical education such as Barcan (1980) and Austin and Selleck (1975). Crane and Walker (1957) and Selleck (1982) are important biographical studies of influential educationists Peter Board (New South Wales) and Frank Tate (Victoria) while celebratory Centenary histories include the Victorian Department of Education (1973), Murray-Smith and Dare (1987) on the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Neil (1991) on Sydney Technical College and Cobb (2000) on the New South Wales system to 1949. 22 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readings1-pickersgill.qxd 9/11/04 12:23 PM Page 23 product and capital markets. Notwithstanding proportionally high concentrations in particular industry areas which developed in the late colonial and post-Federation periods (see Butlin, Barnard & Pincus 1982; Linge 1979), the small size of domestic markets has tended to encourage production based on ‘jobbing’ or short production runs. The mining industry from the 1870s, the steel industry in the 1920s and the post-war expansion of the petrol and chemical industries have, it is true, been based on continuous production. However, even mass production industries, such as motor vehicle manufacturing, are small by world standards, and others significant even 25 years ago, such as textile, clothing and footwear and whitegoods, have now virtually disappeared. With some important exceptions, such as the former Broken Hill Proprietary Company and large public business enterprises, the majority of Australian firms have been small and have relied mainly on external sources, either immigration or the public training system, for formally developed occupational skills. State involvement in industrial and skill development under what Butlin termed ‘colonial socialism’ continued, albeit in gradually diminishing form, throughout the twentieth century (Butlin 1962; Butlin, Barnard & Pincus 1982). The role of the state in raising capital for colonial and post-colonial development, for supplementing and, in some cases, substituting for failures in private investment, are prominent in Australian economic development. The second significant feature has been the linkage, from the earliest colonial period, to world commodity and capital markets. From the earliest date of settlement, exports of seal and whale products, followed by the expansion of agricultural, and later mineral commodity production, linked the Australian economy to world markets. As a colony of settlement rather than exploitation, immigration flows and a common European culture kept Australians aware of the latest scientific and technological developments. As the nineteenth century progressed, the application of science and technology occurred as an intrinsic part of Australian social and cultural development rather than as an externally imposed and alien cultural system. Both the incremental, process-oriented nature of Australian innovation and the publicly funded education and training institutions which developed should be seen as responses to these key features. Australian development and the world economy: From colonies to federation A common view of Australian development portrays a derivative society which, on the strength of agricultural and mineral exports in the nineteenth century, rode to early prosperity ‘on the sheep’s back’ within a system of national protection and imperial preference. While there is some truth in this picture, the notion of a derivative society misses critical aspects of Australian development. The engagement of VET and innovation in Australia 231-pickersgill.qxd 9/11/04 12:23 PM Page 24 European settlement occurred as part of the Enlightenment, and absorbed key political and social lessons from the American and French Revolutions. Rather than a derivative science and technology, it is more productive to see Australian development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as occurring within mainstream western science and technology. In other words, innovation and technological development were absorbed, and lessons adapted within the constraints of limited population and markets in colonial and federated Australia; but they did not have to be adopted from ‘outside’. This is a different process from technology transfer and diffusion which results from direct foreign investment in developing countries or in the ‘Third World’ countries and the newly industrialising economies. Colonial science and technology Australia was settled in the first stage of the Industrial Revolution when mechanical and civil engineering were the keys to technological development, and Britain and steam power reigned supreme (Williams 1987). It was not until the development of the new chemical and biological industries, particularly in Germany and France in the late nineteenth century, that basic and applied science became prominent in formalised research and development, and Britain was challenged for industrial supremacy. The strength of British manufacturing lay in its highly skilled artisans rather than in university-degreed engineers, and the source of improved technology was the informal and tacit skills of these individuals, as much as in original design or engineering blueprints. These skills, embodied in individuals, were highly mobile and able to be applied to the design, construction and modification of the basic machinery itself. That is, innovative processes developed from adaptations and new applications of existing mechanical technologies, rather than distinctly new technological breakthroughs. In the colonial Australia context, the application of this mechanical and civil engineering technology was therefore rarely dependent on the importation of technological artefacts. In shipbuilding, for example, all of the necessary skills were available amongst the shipwrights of the First and Second Fleets, and many of the natural materials, such as timber, were at hand. Later migration was more a quantitative rather than qualitative increase in the skills base. Early limits to the permitted tonnage of locally built vessels imposed by an East India Company monopoly did not reflect a local lack of skill or knowledge and were soon abolished. In 1813 a skilled artisan had to be brought to the colony to assemble the first imported steam engine. By 1836 steam engines were built in Sydney for both manufacturing and marine use and imported engines modified locally for new applications. The latest metallurgical principles were applied in the earliest examples of smelting of copper and iron in the 1840s and applied in the development of locally produced agricultural equipment, including the cogs and gears for wind, water, animal, and later steam-powered grain mills (Linge 1979, pp.24–46; Birmingham & Jeans 1983). 24 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readings1-pickersgill.qxd 9/11/04 12:23 PM Page 25 By the end of the gold rushes of the 1850s a pattern of broad land agriculture was firmly established. Various colonial land acts passed in the 1860s certainly involved political conflict between classes and regional interests, but they also reflected the reality that early imperial visions of small-scale farming communities based on an idealised European model were not viable in Australian conditions. Capital-intensive, not labour-intensive pastoral and agricultural practices developed under the constraints of soil and climate, albeit mediated by individual and class ambitions, frequently theatrically displayed within a developing system of representative democracy. The agricultural expansion in wool, grain and animal products and later sugar, provided regional markets for a range of agricultural machinery that was substantially supplied by local manufacturers whose headquarters were based in regional areas. As Butlin (1962) has shown, manufacturing was increasingly important in local capital formation as the century progressed. This expansion of industry also diffused what were frequently informally acquired skills throughout the colonies. The distillation of spirits and the growth of the brewing industry also provided a small group of artisans experienced in what we would now describe as industrial chemistry. Small scale and ‘low tech’ from our perspective, brewing became a significant industrial activity. Lack of refrigeration, and the vagaries of inland transport, spread this technology to regional centres. While brewing, fermenting and forms of distillation used in the preparation of alcohol raise images of the early rum trade, it should not be forgotten that it was from these processes that major breakthroughs in the understanding of bacterial processes were being made in Europe by, amongst others, Pasteur in France and Koch in Germany. At the turn of the century it was the application of this brewing technology, combined with industrial chemistry, metallurgy and the skills of a locally trained carpenter, EJ Lyster, that led to the development of the Potter/Delprat floatation process for metal extraction at Broken Hill, later adopted worldwide (Cull 1993; Blainey 1971, 1993). Fermentation, and the practical and theoretical knowledge and skills involved were further developed within the technical colleges, institutes and medical schools of the universities. They provided a technical base for a range of biological production techniques, notably in animal vaccination, so that in the nineteenth century, an Australian anthrax vaccine developed at Narrandera in rural New South Wales was demonstrably more effective than that produced by the Pasteur Institute (Todd 1995). By the early twentieth century the new Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (Brogan 1990) could draw on both good scientists and adaptable technicians. Cultural underpinnings A printing press arrived with the First Fleet in 1788 and the first issue of the official Sydney Gazette in 1804 contained an article on the prospects for viticulture, translated from the French for the occasion. Plantings in the Hunter The engagement of VET and innovation in Australia 251-pickersgill.qxd 9/11/04 12:23 PM Page 26 Valley followed shortly afterwards. The first learned society in the colony was the Philosophical Society of Australasia, established in 1821, which in 1866 became the Royal Society of New South Wales. Each new colony, whether it separated from the original colony of New South Wales like Tasmania (1825), Victoria (1851) and Queensland (1859), or was settled separately like South Australia (1836) or Western Australia (1831), developed similar societies or clubs. These societies, whose journals provided wide coverage of international developments in the natural sciences and technology, as well as detailed reports of colonial investigations, provided a focus for colonial debates on education and training. The politically well-connected members of these societies formed a network connecting the older mechanics institutes, schools of arts, new universities and emerging technical colleges and agricultural institutes. The geologist Archibald Liversage for example, who was Secretary to the New South Wales Royal Society for ten years, promoted the study of geology and mineralogy in schools. As a professor at the University of Sydney, and through his 1879 report on technical education undertaken while acting as the New South Wales representative at the Paris International Exhibition, he was instrumental in setting up formal technical education at Sydney Technical College and the associated New South Wales Museum of Technology. The establishment of the Melbourne Workingman’s College in 1887 (later to become the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Murray-Smith & Dare 1987) and the South Australian Institute of Mining and Industry (the educator of Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s Essington Lewis) and now the site of the University of South Australia, involved similar social networks linking prominent individuals and families (such as the Ormonds and Bonythons) with government and industry to develop technical education. A slice through scientific publications in two symbolic years in Australian history, 1888 and 1901, shows that colonial society was abreast of international developments. The presidential address in the 1888 centenary edition of the Journal of the Royal Society of NSW was explicit in drawing readers’ attention to local and international scientific and technological developments, and their potential application to industrial expansion. Also significant were the ten pages that noted recent additions to the society’s library. These consisted of papers and journals from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States. A similar involvement with the international scene is apparent in other colonial societies’ proceedings. The mixture of reviews of the natural and applied sciences and advocacy of systematic technical and scientific education to be funded by the colonial state continued the theme that the New South Wales society’s secretary, Archibald Liversage, had pushed over ten years earlier when he had been instrumental in setting up the New South Wales Technical Education Board. The colonial situation contrasted with that of the metropolis. In the previous year (1887), TH Huxley had argued in the British journal, Nature, for the 26 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readings1-pickersgill.qxd 9/11/04 12:23 PM Page 27 extension of technical training in Manchester. Like many others, he was influenced by the coordinated approaches to technical education and training developing on the continent. However, in the United Kingdom, local administration continued to set the standards in both school and technical education, unlike the systems on the continent or, from a far smaller population base, those in the Australian colonies. Indeed, the United Kingdom had to wait for the Manpower Services Commission in 1960s ‘before attaining the nearest thing to a national system the country had known’ (Gospel 1994). The contrast between the United Kingdom and colonial experience can be illustrated at another important symbolic date—Federation in 1901. In its January 1901 issue, the scientific journal Nature expressed grave concern about the case Regina v. Cockerton. This case, extensively covered, appealed against an action of a London school board which had disallowed expenditure for materials and equipment for the teaching of art and science. Deploring the ad hoc decisions of local administrations, and in the hope that the matter would proceed to appeal to the Privy Council, the editors of Nature concluded: But whatever may be the present state of the law, one thing the case makes transparently clear, and that is the chaotic state of English education. (Nature 1901) The editors of Nature were to be disappointed. By contrast, in Australia by the end of the colonial period, the state of technical education may be described as under-funded, but not chaotic. While there were differences amongst the colonies, these were fewer than the similarities. Colonial divergence The Australian colonies had established free and secular education, at least to primary level by the 1880s. Universities had been established in Sydney (1850), Melbourne (1853), South Australia (1874), Tasmania (1890), and in the early twentieth century, Queensland (1909) and Western Australia (1910). Notwithstanding their sandstone buildings and architectural references, these universities were modelled not on Oxford or Cambridge, but on the new University of London, which like continental Europe, and in particular, Germany, emphasised the study of the natural and applied sciences and technology. Chairs were established in the basic sciences and medicine, which became the focus for research on human health at Melbourne, and animal husbandry and disease prevention at Sydney. An early graduate in engineering at Melbourne University in 1866 was WC Kernot who became the first Australian-born professor of engineering in 1883 (Moyal 1986). Although primarily focused on undergraduate teaching until after the Second World War, doctoral candidates were accepted in science at Melbourne as early as 1887. Nevertheless, secondary education lagged and was almost exclusively the domain of the private church schools until the early twentieth century. However, this was balanced in part by the major growth of technical education colleges The engagement of VET and innovation in Australia 271-pickersgill.qxd 9/11/04 12:23 PM Page 28 and institutes in all colonies. Primarily through part-time evening courses, these substituted for a technical secondary system. Schools of agriculture were established at Roseworthy (South Australia) in 1884, Dookie (Victoria) in 1885, Hawkesbury (New South Wales) in 1888 and Gatton (Queensland) in 1898. The first institutes and schools of mines were established: Ballarat (Victoria) in 1870, Bendigo (Victoria) in 1873, Gawler (South Australia) in 1888 and Zeehan (Tasmania) in 1893. Thus, while technical education within the school system had to wait until the expansion of state secondary education in the twentieth century, a strong network of state-funded technical training institutions, providing large components of what we would now term vocational education and training, was in existence by the close of the colonial system. In education and training, the direct involvement of the state set the stage for post-Federation development. But the process was not simply an imposition of state authority. Representative government and a range of important individuals such as Peter Board in New South Wales and Frank Tate in Victoria, all left the imprint of their individual personalities. Colonial bureaucrats and officials were also well aware of the latest ‘progressive’ educational theorists in North America as well as continental systems of technical education, particularly those of Germany, even if they frequently did not have the resources to fully implement their ideal schemes. In school education, textbooks tended to be sourced from the Irish National system, rather than English local authorities. In the technical education system, while standards and certification such as those provided by the London City and Guilds were widely used, newer industrial processes from Europe and North America entered the curriculum, particularly in the various branches of engineering. In general, the approach of the technical education authorities mirrored the approach adopted in local industry. While local industry reproduced occupational titles derived from the United Kingdom, it developed its technological capacity based on the most appropriate North American or European models. This was evident in the growth of the steel industry in Newcastle, which in the 1920s was one of the most modern and productive in the world (Blainey 1971). Financial capital was generally sought from London; however, intellectual capital and technological expertise were more widely appreciated, sought and applied. Invention and innovation in Australia: Some examples ‘Invention’ has played a large role in Australian popular culture, with some leading inventors and scientific figures, William Farrer (1845–1906) and David Unaipon (1872–1967), celebrated on banknotes and in social studies curricula. The stump-jump plough (1876), the combine harvester (1885) and ‘Federation wheat’ were significant in agriculture. Lawrence Hargraves’s (1850–1915) experiments with flight in 1894, the Potter/Delprat flotation process for the extraction of zinc (1904), Anthony Mitchell’s invention of the thrust bearing 28 Vocational education and training and innovation: Research readings

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