Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their inspirational visions for a future skills system.
Entries to the awards are now closed and we are busy reviewing the submissions.
Winning ideas will be announced at the Ufi VocTech Showcase taking place on the 16th November at 5:30pm, as part of the Week of VocTech 2023.
You can find out more about the awards below.
Introducing the VocTech Future of Skills Award
The VocTech Future of Skills Award is a new competition 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.
The UK skills system covers all the learning we do as adults – whether that’s in work, in college, at home or as part of our community. We know that getting more people engaged in learning is vital for the future of the UK – so how can technology make that system work better for everyone?
"We are looking for bold visions for a better skills system. We want to hear imaginative and practical ideas, enabled by tech, for improving the system and radically increasing adult participation in learning. We are interested in ideas that look beyond a new product, supplier, organisation or service, and which consider how different organisations, people and structures could work together to overcome systemic barriers to learning."
Think big. Think about what you have seen or experienced. Think about how learners you know have overcome barriers to gain the skills they need for work. Tell us how these opportunities could be brought to everyone if the system worked differently.
We know that technology is a tool that can amplify human interaction. How would you use it to support a different educational model, one that is better for everyone?
Winning ideas will receive a £5,000 cash prize and be promoted across the vocational education community, including as a highlight of the Week of VocTech 2023. Winning entrants will be invited to discuss their ideas and meet with critical thinkers from across adult learning.
Read on for more information.
Meet the VocTech Future of Skills Award judges
Explore our judging panel; nine experts from across the skills and adult learning sector.
Why reimagine the adult skills system?
The UK skills system is struggling to keep pace with the needs of our changing economy and society. Despite the efforts of the dedicated individuals who work in the sector, and technology that enables learning to be designed and delivered in almost every way thinkable, the skills system remains fragmented, slow and inflexible. The technology exists to liberate learning but if we don’t reimagine how the skills system works, we will be leaving people, industries and regions across the UK behind.
The VocTech Future of Skills Award is designed to share and celebrate big and bold ideas for change. Ideas to deliver the skills the UK needs - supporting adults to succeed and prosper across the UK.
Forming part of the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition (see below for details), the award provides a platform for people with experience of adult learning to share their visions for the future of skills, to stimulate and amplify the discussion on transforming the UK skills system and to help build a movement for change.
What are we looking for?
Technology enables digital learning to be created and consumed in almost every way thinkable. We are no longer tied to physical classrooms. We can learn remotely, alone or in a group, taking learning wherever we go via the phone in our pocket. We can learn in virtual reality, overlay digital information onto the real world, and take part in digital courses from experts the world over. We can have an AI powered personal tutor to guide us and can experience personalised learning that is tailored just for us.
Yet the system for learning and teaching skills has yet to catch up fully with the revolution that technology could enable. Our skills system has developed over hundreds of years and remains restricted by legacy systems and long-standing cultural and social attitudes. It is subject to endless initiatives and constantly changing political agendas. The dedicated and passionate individuals who work within the sector are often left unable to deliver the education that so many adult learners want and need.
The UK’s economy is in transition, but the skills and learning opportunities required to support this change are neither clear nor equitably available. We need a more collaborative and integrated skills system, one which enables more adults to obtain the skills they need and to continue learning throughout their lives. The technology largely exists. Now we need to reimagine the skills system so that it can make best use of the opportunities this technology brings.
We are looking for ideas that explore the ways that systems could be different, and we anticipate a wide range of thinking, looking at different aspects of the system as a whole. This could be based on your experience as an independent training provider or working in a college, it could be through involvement with community groups and learners, it could be your work in edtech or as an L&D professional in a corporate environment, or could be based on your own personal experience of learning.
We want to see ideas that get to the heart of systemic change – this could be through better deployment of technology, changes in policy or systems that enable different ways of utilising tech solutions, or structural change that sees technology utilised in new ways. What would you do with tech to make the UK skills system better for adult learners?
We are looking for bold, inspiring visions for the UK adult vocational skills system that:
- Explain where and how change to the UK’s fragmented skills system is possible if we thought differently and used tech to power that change
- Explain the impact the one change would have in getting more adults learning
- Are informed by experience of the current system, for example as an adult learner, provider and/or employer
- Use technology to achieve a transformational impact in increasing adult participation in learning
- Build on existing and future opportunities for an economy in transition
- Have the potential to inspire others
- Could reduce gaps in learning participation and help embed a culture of lifelong learning
- Align with our mission
Themes and approaches
Entries might consider ways in which a future skills system will:
- Improve flexibility of institutions and delivery models - improve the quality, range and types of training on offer
- Improve links between training and employment – locally and nationally
- Reduce barriers – both motivational/confidence barriers and practical barriers
- Increase the perceived value of learning
- Increase/raise awareness of opportunities for learning and the benefits of those opportunities
Applications open – Tuesday 15th August
Applications close – Tuesday 26th September
Finalists announced – Friday 10th November
Winners announced – Thursday 16th November
Finalists in the VocTech Future of Skills Award will each receive a prize of £1,000.
Winning ideas will each receive a £5,000 cash prize and be promoted across the vocational education community, including as a highlight of the Week of VocTech 2023. Winning entrants will be invited to discuss their ideas and meet with critical thinkers from across adult learning.
- Naomi Clayton, Deputy Director, Learning and Work Institute
- Maren Deepwell, Strategic Lead (AmplifyFE), Association for Learning Technology
- Rebecca Garrod-Waters, CEO, Ufi VocTech Trust
- Dominic Gill, Chair of Trustees, Ufi VocTech Trust
- Jeff Greenidge, Director For Diversity and Governance, Association of Colleges
- Scott Hayden, Head of Teaching, Learning and Digital, Basingstoke College of Technology
- Louise Marston, Director of Ventures, Resolution Foundation
- Andy Witty, Director of Strategic Policy and Corporate Governance, Colleges Scotland
- Gori Yahaya, Founder and CEO, UpSkill Digital
Find out more about our judging panel here.
Rules of entry
The award rules are available here.
Entries were encouraged from anyone with experience of adult learning, including learners, teachers, technologists and others. Entries could be submitted in one of two ways, either:
- a maximum 2,000 words written submission; or
- a maximum seven-minute video submission
Entries were asked to answer the question: “If you could make one change to the skills system to get more adults learning, what would it be?”
Entries could include photos, diagrams or illustrations, allowing people to choose how they communicated their vision.
Part of the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition
The VocTech Future of Skills Award is a key part of the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition, an ambitious £3m programme of work from Ufi in partnership with Learning and Work Institute.
Launched in June 2023, the multi-year programme is designed to support the adoption and deployment of technology to help every adult in the UK get the skills they need to participate and benefit from our transitioning economy.
Find out more about the VocTech Challenge.