By Louise Rowland, Deputy CEO
At Ufi VocTech Trust, we champion the power of technology to improve skills for work and deliver better outcomes for all. We have been grant funding, investing, and generally advocating for VocTech - that is, technology to support adult vocational skills - since 2012.
The past 12 months have been interesting for us to observe as the widespread use case and uptake of digital tools to support remote learning, because of the pandemic, has pushed VocTech - that is technology to support adult vocational skills - into the mainstream. It is telling that TIME magazine’s best inventions of 2020 is led by Virti, a training platform that drops workers into high-stress augmented and virtual reality scenarios, where they can practice responding and receive feedback.
As we reflect on the experience for many of ‘lockdown learning’ at Ufi we are more and more about our ambitions for VocTech and what we believe it can help us achieve – the skills we need for work, now and in the future.
In her January Blog, What Good Looks Like, Ufi VocTech Trust's CEO, Rebecca Garrod-Waters argues that remote platforms hastily deployed to deal with a crisis are not the best of tech and that this mustn’t get embedded in the national thinking as what online or digital learning really is.
I'd argue that the real potential is for digital learning, done well, is to transform lives by opening access to learning and pathways into employment. This is particularly pertinent as COVID exposed fault-lines of inequality with many now more at risk than ever from being excluded from education and training and being able to access employment as a result of the ‘digital divide’.
These are some of the thorniest issues in vocational learning, that precede the COVID-19 pandemic but have been further compounded by it and are the focus of Ufi’s VocTech Challenge to explore how VocTech can improve vocational outcomes for people most impacted by the digital divide and at the greatest risk from the long-term impact of the pandemic on access to training and jobs?
At Ufi we are passionate about continuing our positive impact as we continue to see out the "post"-COVID world, through our Ufi Ventures, investing in mission-aligned early-stage companies and our VocTech Challenge. Whilst I am not quite sure vocational technology has come of age, it has certainly grown up. Greater awareness of its existence can only be a good thing to unleash the potential for digital to support learners, teachers, trainers, and organisations and in creating an environment for better learner outcomes.