Growing collaboration to meet the needs of our local economies

A winning vision from the VocTech Future of Skills Awards

The VocTech Future of Skills Award was designed to share and celebrate big, tech-enabled ideas of how changes to the UK skills system could transform the way adults get the skills they need for work.

In this article we learn more about one of the winning entries, from Gill Scott.

Explore the other winning entries.


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Growing collaboration to meet the needs of our local economies

The UK’s future skills system needs to meet the needs of local economies, and to do so we need closer collaboration and more flexibility between employers, colleges and adult learners, Gill Scott argues.

Gill believes we must move away from short-term funding for initiatives and competition between employers, colleges and specialist training organisations and instead create a culture of shared expertise and resources.

Gill, an education consultant with over 20 years' experience of working in education and skills in Greater Manchester, is one of three winners of a national competition held to celebrate visions for the future of the UK skills system - Ufi’s VocTech Future of Skills Award.

Gill Scott collecting her award

Gill (second from the left accompanied by Jonathan Rashid) receiving her award from Ufi CEO, Rebecca Garrod-Waters (far left), and Chair of Trustees, Dominic Gill (far right).

Gill’s winning vision is based around the idea that learners would have skills profiles and take high-quality short, flexible courses, which were endorsed by employers and responsive to the needs of the local economy. The short courses would lead to formal qualifications and a professional and technical education.

“We need a system that recognises difference, place and communities,” Gill says, “where colleges and other providers can be a central hub for employers and learners”.

“At the heart of the system must be a three-way relationship between the employer, the provider, and the learner”

Digital technology can play a huge role in enabling this, Gill argues. Our mobile phones, for example, mean that there is greater flexibility in how we learn, whether this is in a formal or informal setting. Our phones also allow for greater collaboration - we can have online conversations to supplement in-person ones.

Gill’s vision is inspired by a project already underway in Greater Manchester for the construction industry. The project has brought about the creation of an online, interactive resource used to aid progression in construction jobs and has been already successfully used by adults, young people, parents, teachers and employers.

Gill says her own experiences showed her how transformative further education can be. As a young single parent, who left school with few qualifications, Gill attended a night class once a fortnight before being encouraged to take up a place on a university art foundation course which allowed her to work and study at the same time.

“I’ve seen people's lives transformed. And it's not just about making money and getting good jobs. It's actually about life, and what else learning brings to life.”

During her time working in education and skills, Gill has had wide experience collaborating across the sector with large employers, professional networks, local and combined authorities, awarding bodies and higher education providers, among others.

Gill says that in order for the skills system to change, we need to examine current good practice and ensure we have a clear vision for the future.

“We've got some examples of good practice, but while there are models which are working well, they could be even better. If we do it really, really well, we transform more lives and make a bigger impact - this means we make our communities cohesive places to be”.

Gill's winning entry in more detail

Growing collaboration to meet the needs of our local economies

“The current job market is both uncertain and rapidly changing and, at the same time, it is hard for many adult learners to find work or demonstrate their skills.

I believe we need to find a way for everyone to develop their skills, based on what their local economy needs now and in the future.

My vision is for a digital system that gives us clear routes into short courses that lead to a high-quality professional and technical education.

Learners would obtain microcredentials for these flexible, accessible short courses and they would be endorsed by employers.

The digital system I envisage would allow us to build our own skills profiles and work towards formal qualifications, with digital technologies used to blend practice and theory.

My idea is place-based - this means we would be creating curriculums for adult learners that meet the needs of local economies.

It would mean an end to the current market-driven system, which has led to competition between employers, colleges and specialist training organisations, all of whom may deliver vocational programmes and apprenticeships.

Instead, there would be collaboration between providers, students and employers with the end result of building capacity and providing a supply of skilled staff for the future.

My vision would build on work already underway in Greater Manchester, through the Greater Manchester-wide Strategic Development Fund project. This has brought about the creation of an online, interactive resource used by adults, young people, parents, teachers and employers, which is focused on progression in the construction industry.”

Gill Scott

Judges were impressed by the clear articulation of systems already in place and a vision for the way this could be expanded to achieve wider system change across the UK. Judges liked the fact that it focused on flexibility of learning, in both the formal and informal context, and the importance of the link to place and local needs and challenges.

Part of the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an economy in transition

The VocTech Future of Skills Award formed part of our VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition, a multi-year programme of funding and work in partnership with Learning and Work Institute.

Entrants to the Future of Skills Award were asked to share their ideas for how technology could help overcome the current challenges to the UK skills system.