Isn’t it enough for innovators to just innovate?

Numerous public and private sector reports in the last 36 months have identified the need for graduates from our education system to acquire commercial savvy and innovative thinking in order to compete internationally in a global marketplace for ideas. This is particularly so in the innovative industries which are widely accepted as the key to increasing productivity across economies, both directly and indirectly.

There appears to be a growing perception in the innovation industry base, particularly but by no means exclusively in those in their first 10 years of experience in their fields, that commerce equates to bringing an invention to market and as such, was irrelevant to them as “someone else does that”.  After years of focus and study, the commercial world can seem like another planet – remote, avoidable and best left to others who are interested in dealing with it. But, like any foreign country, the commercial world has much to offer a traveler, whether their career goal is running their own company, their own laboratory or their own research agenda.  Whether or not graduates of the innovative and creative disciplines are motivated by profit, in the twenty first century their work ultimately takes place in a commercial world of return on investment:  of time, of effort, and resources.

While there are no existing businesses seeking to provide these sorts of products in this way, there are a multitude of programs focused on providing qualifications and training in business.  These programs are largely within universities and are generally lengthy and expensive. The major university alternative to the specialty business degrees, particularly within the research and development sector, is the range of qualifications in commercialization.  In both cases, courses require a level of specialization immediately on enrolment, be it in content level or in management focus, and require a commitment of at least six months full time and in the vicinity of $10,000.

At the other end of the spectrum are programs focussed on establishing and operating a small business. These largely have an operational focus however, these course also require a commitment of time and money many graduates and early career innovators and creatives are not prepared to make, preferring the immediate security of a regular income and a defined career path.

YCF fills this gap, building its own foundation on three points of difference:

  • we provide broad knowledge in a focussed and targeted way
  • we take a new approach to uptake skills that goes beyond sale to encompass industry productivity and public good
  • we deliver short, immediate outcome programs rather than long term-specialty-based qualifications

Putting the “Continuing” in Continuing Education

Changes in the mix of skills and occupations required by various industries influence the demand for education; this particularly influences mature-age students to return to education. The development of post-graduate courses and flexible methods for course delivery has allowed the expansion of this field over the past five years. In 2012-13, mature age students ie over 25 years old, accounted for 17.3% of the education and training market. Demand for these courses is high as people update and upgrade their knowledge and skills for career change and progression. Australia also has a strong record for participation in lifelong learning, measured against other OECD countries (IBISWorld Industry Report: Education and Training in Australia, February 2013.)

There has also been an explosion in choice of post-graduate courses on offer during this period, as universities have sought to attract students to fee-paying courses. Masters degrees, Executive Education programs and Graduate Diploma/Certificate courses attract thousands of mature age students every year seeking to advance or distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive and changeable global market.

The master of business administration degree (MBA) has transformed during this expansion from a degree of distinction to the staple of the postgraduate business industry. An MBA is effectively a general management qualification featuring a taste of all the core disciplines but focusing on leadership skills According to the University of Western Australia Business School’s postgraduate program director, the typical MBA student will be late 20s and early 30s, going into their 40s.  Many of them have non-business degree backgrounds – they may have good technical skills but no knowledge with respect to strategy, basic accounting or finance or leadership and organizational skills.  In contrast, masters students tend to be younger and continuing their studies in a field similar to their undergraduate degree (“Specialist MBA takes it to the next level” Australian Financial Review, 24 September 2012.) 

Professionals seeking to secure promotions and expand their careers are studying short courses in IT, finance and communication, seeking the right mix of skills to give them an edge in the job market.  The Chief Executive Officer of Open Universities Australia, Paul Wappett, has noted that students are currently very discerning about the type of education they want.  According to Mr Wappett, some students are doing short courses because they need particular skills to help them in their current job, with others taking single units because they are looking for promotion opportunities.