Green Paper

2021 VocTech Challenge

Explore the VocTech Challenge Green Paper.

Representing more than three months of dialogue to test our assumptions and seek new insights, the 2021 VocTech Challenge green paper provides an opportunity to tackle some of the biggest challenges in vocational learning with an open mind.

What we outline is a view of the ‘VocTech Landscape’ in a series of problem statements / opportunities (defining needs), all of which have been derived from the challenges currently experienced by the stakeholder groups we’ve talked to through the discovery phase.

The quality of the conversations we have had to form our thinking here has been incredible and we are very grateful to all of those who have offered their time to share their experiences. This isn’t a document that will sit on a policy shelf. This is a living process that we are using to now engage with a wider community and which will shape what we do next.

Dominic Gill
Chair, Ufi VocTech Trust

Find out more about the VocTech Challenge.

Download the Green Paper

Although the consultation period has closed, you can still provide your feedback.

Insights and framing the problem

What we outline in the Green Paper is a view of the ‘VocTech Landscape’ in a series of problem statements / opportunities. During the next phase, we will look at ideas for how to solve some of these problems, but for now, we are trying to be clear on the spaces in which action might be appropriate. We know we won’t have captured everything and welcome feedback.


Our five key insights are as follows:

1. It isn’t just the technology – although the technology is an issue

Access to technology and data is a big issue for those most at risk of being excluded from training. There is a significant equality gap that needs to be addressed urgently. Even where there was greater access, motivation to learn was a big issue. Employers were reported to be unwilling to accept that online training was ‘real’ learning and that perception may a barrier to adoption.

The question our insights raise for VocTech is whether greater use of mobile-first learning is possible. And if so, how do you design and deploy great quality digital learning that doesn’t rely on the latest software or large amounts of data? How can good quality personalization be supported affordably - as one-size digital learning solutions don’t fit all? What can be done to help employers understand the benefits of digitally supported vocational learning?

2. It’s all about confidence

The confidence to be an independent learner came through in most of our discussions and has two main aspects – the confidence to engage online and confidence in digital skills. Issues manifest themselves in several ways, for learners as well as for teachers and trainers, including fear of judgment, potentially chaotic working spaces, peer pressure, and concerns about online safety. Sharing openly online is just not seen as an option for some.

The landscape here is around supporting learners, whatever their personal and learning needs, to experience VocTech and blended learning in a way that is supportive and non-threatening. Developing resources or strategies to enable learners to become more independent becomes a priority and understanding how VocTech and emerging technologies can enable access for those with additional learning needs now becomes more urgent.

User design also needs to take account of the experience of the teachers and trainers, who facilitate that learning.

3. Digital skills are key to engagement

The second part of the confidence issue is digital confidence and goes across all actors in the learning and development space, not just learners. There are big issues for teachers/trainers, learning and development professionals, and managers across the piece – employers, training providers, FE. And a willingness to disclose a lack of digital skills is an issue.

The landscape here is around stepping back from our current assumptions of competence and finding ways to engage, inspire and motivate people to develop those skills and/or to make them well known and widely available.

4. Learning is a community activity and needs to include practical skills

Learning is generally not a solitary activity, either the learning or the practical application of skills usually involves others. Group learning remains the norm across providers, and in that context those not able to join online groups are disadvantaged. It is also a team sport for developers, learning designers, and trainers who value the ability to bounce ideas around, get inspired by others’ thinking and ideas.

The landscape here challenges us to look differently at how VocTech connects people in the learning, teaching, and development phases. How can we innovate to include practical skills in the virtual world? How do we create more and better trained learning designers to be fully able to exploit the potential of VocTech to offer truly disruptive solutions? How can awarding and accrediting bodies engage to look at new models for modular and bite-sized, skills-based assessment? How do we engage employers to better understand their day-to-day needs?


5. It’s a difficult business market for innovative developers and training providers

Participants spoke of the challenge of selling new ideas to a market that was not aware of the potential of what VocTech could do to change the face of learning. There are also challenges of proving ROI for digital learning, in part because ‘traditional’ methods of training have not historically been evaluated for effectiveness. Colleges are not set up to commercialise their ideas, reducing incentives for staff to create new content/platforms/tech that could have wider application beyond the College.

The questions from our insights here are around how to create a culture of innovation to support the development and adoption of the very best VocTech. The mood music in our conversations was that funding based on time and attendance rather than the acquisition of skills coupled with a poor culture of measuring the impact of training has a drag effect on innovation.

Already read the Green Paper?

Although the consultation period has officially closed, we would still love to hear your feedback.