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Regional development: the case for practitioner training and education

  • Year: 2001
  • Author: Holland, Les
  • Journal Name: Regional Policy and Practice
  • Journal Number: Vol.10, No.1
  • Country: Australia

This research examines the question - 'Does the tertiary education sector in Australia provide courses, modules and/​or subjects on aspects of regional/​economic development to meet the professional needs of practitioners in their field?' Chapter One provides an overview of the study and proposes five research questions which are addressed in this thesis. Chapter Two reviews the literature and proposes an Australian model of regional development. This model builds on the work of Dore and Woodhill and provides an overview of what is involved in regional development and the activities linked to regional/​economic development practitioners. Chapter Three addresses the literature on issues including the tertiary education sector in Australia; competencies required for the regional development process; and the professionalism of regional/​economic development practitioners. The literature review is used to develop a model incorporating education and training for practitioner competencies on the regional development process. Chapter Four discusses the methodology used in this study. Chapter Five reported the results of the surveys. Practitioners supported the Australian model of regional development and endorsed the activities listed in the model. Practitioners identified the competencies required to carry out the regional/​economic development activities, along with the need for a flexible, tertiary qualification - preferably postgraduate. The qualification needs to be multidisciplinary in approach and provide practical case studies for practitioners. A review of current offerings, from the tertiary education sector, suggests that the needs of practitioners, in respect of education and training, are not being met. The Centre for Australian Regional and Enterprise Development (CARED), at Southern Cross University, was the only university that responded with details that indicate that they have a program to meet the needs of practitioners. Tertiary institutions need to review current regional/​economic development and consider integrating them with a multidisciplinary program - in line with practitioners' needs. Faculties within universities are already offering the subjects, but the packaging and marketing of the programs needs to be undertaken. Chapter Six discusses the conclusions and implications of this research. The models, which were developed from the available literature, have been supported and endorsed by practitioners. Gaps have been identified between the education and training needs of practitioners and current program/​subject offerings by universities. Universities need to review existing regional/​economic development programs and consider providing a multidisciplinary approach that delivers the competencies endorsed by practitioners. Implications arising from the research include, a lack of professional development opportunities for regional/​economic development practitioners, practitioners looking overseas to have their education and training needs provided and an opportunity for Australia to develop a group of professionally trained practitioners in the regional economic development field. Given the exploratory nature of the research further studies are required. Future research may include potential overseas course/​program offerings, widening the practitioner sample beyond paid, full-time practitioners, to include volunteer board members and other organisations that may be considered part of the regional economic development 'industry' (for example, chambers of commerce, business enterprise networks etc.). It needs to be noted that research, although defining regional development and proposing a regional development model, has focused on the economic development aspect and not on the full range of regional development elements, that is the social, environmental and economic elements.

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