Meeting the VocTech Challenge

Rebecca Garrod-Waters, CEO of UFI, examines why the VocTech Challenge is so important...

Earlier this month we launched the VocTech Challenge grant call, a key action in response to the issues identified in the VocTech Challenge Green Paper.

The Challenge is a really important piece of work for us, building on what we have learnt from the organisations we have worked with and the wider VocTech community. We knew that the learners we focus on - those less likely to have access to training at work, those furthest from education or those facing barriers to accessing learning - were also the most likely to have been impacted by the pandemic measures.

It became abundantly clear that we needed to support the community of teachers, trainers and organisations working with impacted learners to explore the ways that technology could be utilised to improve outcomes – and this was particularly true for issues around confidence and motivation. We had deployed emergency support as part of our initial Covid response – but this wasn’t about an emergency sticking plaster. We needed to focus on building a better future system, one that was designed around equity of access and positive outcomes, and one that incorporates technology that was developed for (and with) our target learners.

Understanding the barriers

The importance of engaging the end users and understanding the barriers and challenges that individuals face cannot be overstated, and Helen Milner, Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation, discusses this in her recent blog post for Ufi. We are opening this grant call because we want to bring forward tech solutions that solve problems, not exacerbate the existing divide, and we want to work with organisations that know the challenges their learners face.

We also know there are some big, knotty, socio-economic problems that need to be resolved – and we know that we can’t solve these. But what we can do is make sure that the work we support understands the context it is operating in, whether that be data poverty, poor connectivity or poor basic skills. In many instances the combination of challenges contributes to poor learner confidence and motivation problems.

The critical nature of the issues we are collectively facing means we wanted to support work with immediate impact – but work that was designed for a better future.

Future of work challenges

The ‘Future of Work’ is a global hot topic right now because the pandemic has surfaced issues around skills and the workforce, but these issues have been on the horizon for some time. We won’t resolve any future of work challenges without thinking properly about how we design for equity of access and outcome. And this means using technology in a way that understands the needs of those furthest away from opportunity.

We want to support the skills system of the future through the VocTech Challenge – technology that is designed to open up learning, training and work. We are looking for those projects that address barriers and build bridges to improve learner confidence and motivation, leading to better outcomes for the learner, employer and society as a whole.

We’re here to support applicants every step of the way through a range of workshops and other resources on our website. Find out more here.

Find out more about the VocTech Challenge

Click here to find out much more about the VocTech Challenge and to sign up for our workshops...