Education and Training in a Time of Change

2020 has been a particularly confronting year for the education sector. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a whole host of challenges, which saw funding decrease and research priorities changing in line with the current environment.

For Australia’s building industry, the pandemic has largely accentuated the existing issues around skills shortages including, among others, new skills demanded by the digital age. For industry, the question is more: how can we address such sector-wide change at a time when the whole world is changing?

Building 4.0 CRC partner, Holmesglen Institute, believes that research-industry partnerships are key to moving forward, and leading the way.

“Holmesglen, along with other educational institutions, has adapted almost overnight to what has become one of the greatest dislocations in living memory: COVID-19,” said Dr Henry Pook, Director of Holmesglen’s Centre for Applied Research and Innovation. “Although this presents great challenges, it also presents great opportunities to reflect, revise and reframe, even explore new ways of seeing; and it provides an impetus for applied research to be carried out in conjunction with industry.”

Working with industry can mean a change in research priorities, both now and in the future. But, through industry-led programs, such as those offered by Building 4.0 CRC, strong partnerships can be forged between VET, universities and industry partners, where they can deliver the next generation of highly-skilled and innovative professionals whilst transforming the culture in these industries.

“In the building industry, for example, such program outcomes have the capacity to ‘disrupt’ that industry’s unsatisfactory performance and transform it through the adoption of new technologies and increased digitisation”, said Dr Pook.

“We have long wrestled with the question as to how to best take advantage of our structures and circumstances to embed our already extensive research profile further into the research landscape; partnerships such as Building 4.0 CRC provide further impetus in taking this step,” he added.

The world will undoubtedly continue to change, and as such we clearly need to change our own thinking. New pathways need to be paved, upon which we can lead our industries into the future.

“For educational institutes such as Holmesglen, they can engage in innovative research projects that have the potential to develop leading-edge training and education programs for a workforce in the digital age – a direction being taken, for example, in the planning and implementation of Building 4.0 CRC’s research programs”, said Prof. Tuan Ngo, Building 4.0 CRC’s Research Director.

“We also have our lighthouse projects – projects that use real buildings for safe testing for new ideas – which creates interesting skills and training options in the real world,” he added.

It is hoped, maybe even expected, that such industry-research initiatives will act a catalyst in planning further research, and that we start to see industry partnerships become a primary driver of applied research in both TAFE and other educational institutions.

The above concepts were discussed at Holmesglen Institute’s Research Conference (OctoberVET): ‘Applied Research in TAFE during a time of pandemic: the importance of industry partnerships’, held on 6 November 2020. Key speakers included Prof. Mathew Aitchison, CEO of Building 4.0 CRC, and Dr Sean Gallagher, Director for the Centre for the New Workforce, Swinburne University. A significant number of Holmesglen researchers also delivered presentations on a number of innovative research projects designed to involve industry in the design and implementation of training programmes for a ‘COVID world’.