The impact of COVID-19 on industry innovation, skills and the need for training

Skilled workforce Vocational education and training Workplace training Australia

Innovation can offer a pathway to economic recovery from COVID-19. The VET sector could assist by providing training for new skills required to implement innovations. Most of the 21 interviewed businesses changed their usual operations in response to COVID-19 but training in new skills was generally not necessary. Any training undertaken was short-term, unaccredited and internal. The VET sector requires structural changes to better serve industry during a crisis, including reducing course duration, focusing on skill sets rather than qualifications, online delivery where possible, and meeting skills needs in industries where VET has not been a traditional source of training.

Using semi-structured interviews in three case study industries (manufacturing; healthcare; and hospitality and tourism), this research documents the different ways by which businesses have responded to the pandemic and the extent to which innovation was an element of their response. It identifies the implications for the vocational education and training (VET) sector in providing training for any new skills needed for innovation under pandemic conditions.

Key messages:

  • Most businesses adapted to changing conditions during the pandemic, rather than innovated.
  • A limited amount of training was required for the innovations or adaptations made, with most staff able to transfer existing skills to any new tasks.
  • Where training was undertaken, it was mostly unaccredited and done informally on the job or via free online training (from government, industry associations or vendor websites). Where accredited training was used, such as in the aged care sector, it tended to be conducted online.
  • Some businesses reported that VET was irrelevant to their needs (even pre-pandemic), while
    others reported that VET should be more agile or responsive to the conditions and provide training of short duration.
  • Barriers to innovation during the pandemic included a lack of financial resources, limited innovation options and the conservative nature of their sector, as well as survival of the business being a higher priority. A lack of skills or inability to access training was not identified as a barrier to innovation.
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