Educate to innovate

22 May 2020 Educate to innovate image

It’s time to release our education from the shackles of the past.  What worked pre-COVID will simply not work in the new world.  If we try and replicate the current education system, growth and recovery will not be enabled. 

Two factors are at play here.  First the nature of work is changing and this change will be accelerated as we work thought the COVID recovery.  We will have more workers than jobs, reducing the overall number of permanent positions.  Workers will be required to have more skills, as technology and robotics progressively replace repetitive and manual occupations. 

Post-COVID vocational training will need to teach broad and transferrable skills.  Brief, on-the-job upskilling and training – backed by a minimum of classroom time – that builds on workers’ existing skills will be needed. 

Vocational training will become a continual activity, and workers will need to be supported when they are upskilling between jobs.  The challenge for employers, workers, educational institutions and the Government is to become much more flexible. 

The second factor is the impact of the technology coming from innovation.  This is not the technology we have today – it is what we are going to need to invent.  For example, New Zealand’s Agritech sector already brings in $1.5 billion a year in export earnings.  More pre-COVID success stories like this are needed that create skilled jobs which led to an export led recovery.  

A key part of the COVID recovery is the need to innovate and upskill our workforce to become innovators.  Unlike yesterday, the COVID recovery workforce needs vocational training on how to think, invent, be creative, be flexible, and how to adapt to a new work / life / invention lifestyle.

The changing nature of work and our COVID recovery needs come together as one requirement: the need to innovate significantly more than we have done in the past.  Without innovation, we will not successfully recover.  We need to train innovators and give them the right operating environment so when our new workforce is between jobs, it is upskilling as well as innovating.

Some would say that the Government is currently working within the shackles of the past.  Job seeker programmes, teaser courses and increased funding for apprenticeships and trades training are all worthy and needed projects.  But in addition to this traditional approach, I believe we need to move to a future that takes into account two key factors: a changing workforce and the need to innovate. 

That is why a whole new approach – in addition to what is already being proposed – is needed.  Job seeker programmes can also be recruitment drives to identify potential innovators.  Teaser courses can also be upskilling sessions that build on the current skills of the students, and apprenticeships can also be innovation incubators. 

COVID has given us the chance to make significant step changes. I believe we need to seize these opportunities to successfully recover from COVID to become fit for the future in the new world order.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive