Buligina, I., & Sloka, B. (2014). Investing in skills and innovation: New strategic tasks for public administrations. European Integration Studies, 8, 115-123.
Evidence shows that in the labour market the most demanded specialists are those with high-level vocational skills, implying also their competence for innovation. The latest EU policy initiatives explicitly call for innovation in vocational education and training (VET) systems. This is a relatively new VET policy development. At the same time, it is not yet sufficiently discussed how innovation in VET systems could be best translated in practical terms. Traditionally innovation has been related to the research and development domain, and little routine practices exist regarding the VET system. The present paper will explore the opinions and estimations by public administrators and experts regarding the value and importance of approaches and institutional mechanisms to promote innovation in VET. The focus of the research is on the training need of innovation competent labour force in the VET system, and on the existing and needed co-operation and institutional mechanisms to secure such training. The aim of the research is to study the opinions and views of education policy makers and experts regarding the relevance of co-operation among various stakeholders in the training of innovation competent labour force, as well as and regarding the suitability and effectiveness of the existing and potential institutional mechanisms to secure such co-operation. In order to carry out the research, the following tasks were set – 1) to analyse of scientific publications in order to identify relevant policy approaches and academic discourse regarding the research topic; 2) to carry out empirical study – expert survey of public administrators and data analysis of the survey results; 3) to analyse the empirical findings against the background of the current policy and academic trends. Research methods: textual and literature analysis were based on study of policy and legal documents, and research articles. The empirical study was based on the survey of opinions and interviews with policy makers, administrators and experts in higher education, research and vocational education and training, representatives of the employers’ organisations. To carry out the empirical research, a questionnaire was developed and tested among high level experts. Based on the material obtained from the survey, analysis was carried out. Qualitative analysis has been complemented by quantitative analysis through applying the indicators of central tendency or location (arithmetic mean, mode, median), as well as indicators of variability (variance, standard deviation, standard error of mean, range). Based on the textual analysis and empirical study, conclusions have been made. The research shows that the current developments in EU VET policy regarding the training of innovation competent labour force finds reflection also in the present academic discourse. However, in practice the attitudes of relevant stakeholders are still relatively conservative regarding innovation in VET, and innovation is still primarily seen as pertaining to the domain of higher education, research and development. At the same time, politically and academically, there are not yet clear guidelines available as to practical measures how public administrations could address the new challenges. For this reason studies on the implementation of innovation by VET systems should be continued, involving in empirical studies a wider spectrum of relevant stakeholders.