What do entrepreneurs have in common with academic researchers? They both see the future in a different way. Entrepreneurs see opportunities to create value, while academics see better outcomes through research that matters across society – including industry.
At Torrens University, we hold close our relationship with industry because it is at the confluence of industry and academia where we discover where we are most relevant and what actually impacts our world. This is how we produce valuable outcomes for our students and society – including the vulnerable.
We do this through our ongoing research, collaborations and partnerships – discovering and identifying what is needed to drive progress. This is what we define as Research That Matters.
Today, we have a number of outstanding research projects which do not just focus on people and industry for impact – but also challenge us to rethink concepts and attitudes we take for granted.
When Adelaide PhD student Damien Mills was asked to review the entrepreneurship curriculum in a business school, he was surprised when he couldn’t find one.
“The curriculum that I found was largely a redo of existing business planning curricula. There was no coherent definition of entrepreneurship, nor one describing the entrepreneurial ecosystem, or the entrepreneur,” recalls Mr Mills.
Despite extensive funding of entrepreneurial ecosystems, it seems the entrepreneur is a rare and almost mythical creature. Mr Mills’ research aims to define what entrepreneurship really is, where it came from and how it works.
One of the goals of this research is to influence the school education system to better understand the role of the entrepreneur – so we’ll hopefully see more entrepreneurs in future.
Improving soft skills for better business outcomes
The entrepreneurs we can identify have excelled in digital disruption. Technology relieves workers from repetitive tasks, creating greater demand for people skills. In fact, demand for soft skills is 45 per cent higher than supply in the job market.
Dr Mandi Baker refers to these social and personal skills as affective abilities (AA) in her research at Torrens University’s Centre for Organisational Change and Agility. Over the past six years, Dr Baker’s research into affective abilities has confirmed that AA can and should be developed.
In addition to helping meet the demand for soft skills, the aim of this research is to equip young adults with abilities they can take into any job for a sustainable career.
“Well-developed AA can buffer the demands of service jobs making workforces stronger and service delivery employment more sustainable,” confirms Dr Baker.
Increasing employability for people with disability
While entrepreneurs are hard to find and soft skills are on backorder, people with intellectual disability are hugely underrepresented in workplaces. To address this problem, Dr Denise De Souza asked if there was a disconnect between training and work environments.
“There seems to be a gap in research on programs that try to train and support young adults with intellectual disabilities in the transition phase from education to the workplace,” reflects Dr De Souza.
Working alongside employment trainers Impact21, Dr De Souza observed that young adults with Down syndrome who are confident in the training room can feel overwhelmed in the workplace. Now they’re refining that training to better support students in their transition to the workplace.
Ultimately, this focus on people and industry for impact can lead to more entrepreneurs creating employment for young people who are better prepared for the workplace.
People & Industry for Impact is one of four key areas under the Torrens University Research that Matters framework for developing new knowledge.
Researchers across Torrens University, Think Education and Media Design School are creating and building research programs that are contributing to the improvement of people’s lives.
Find out more about our research.