Comparing the Design and Implementation of IT Skill Standards in Britain and Japan: IT Human Resources, Institutional Innovation and Path Dependency

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: Booth 51
Distributed Paper
Kevin MCCORMICK , University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom
Yoshiki KURATA , Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, Japan
Katsuhiko TSUZAKI , International Buddhist University (Shitennouji University), Osaka, Japan
At the beginning of the twenty first century, government administrations in Britain and Japan pinned great hopes on IT for economic development but feared that the rapidity of technological developments frustrated the effective workings of labour markets, education and training to develop and deploy effective IT labour forces. The speed of technological change meant that employers, educators and IT professionals produced piecemeal solutions and lacked a common language to describe IT skills and guide employment, training, education, and careers. In Britain, the government sponsored the development of a matrix of IT functional areas and levels of responsibility, the Skills for the Information Age (SFIA), within which tasks and skills could be appropriately described. This ‘one page framework’ stimulated Japanese administrators to sponsor an IT framework for Japan, the Information Technology Skill Standard (ITSS). At first sight, comparing the design of the two skill standards appears to be a case of IT policy transfer and institutional innovation in response to common technological challenges in IT skill formation. However, closer examination of the institutional innovations and policy implementation in the two countries underlines the importance of path dependency, for the innovations were mediated through distinctive institutional histories and cultures. Being locked into different institutional histories and resources does not mean that ‘learning from abroad’ cannot occur, but that policy transfer and institutional innovation will be heavily conditioned by the past and develop different forms and practices. Using official documents and interviews with key participants, the authors demonstrate the continuing importance of different British and Japanese institutional histories on the respective institutional linkages and ownership of the skill standards, the respective provisions for dissemination and updating the skill standards, the respective links of the skill standards to competency, examinations and qualifications, and the international dimensions of the two national skill standards.