Introduction from our CEO, Rebecca Garrod-Waters
Today sees the publication of the most recent independent evaluation of Ufi’s grant funding programmes from 2015 to 2019. I am thrilled to be able to share what we have learnt and to celebrate the impact of Ufi funding on learners, organisations and the wider vocational skills sector.
When we launched Ufi’s first strategy in 2015, we had a clear focus on helping adults to gain the skills needed for work and supporting learners as they move through their careers, providing opportunities for lifelong learning and skills development in ways that fit around work and life commitments. We believed that digital tools could offer increased flexibility, new approaches to learning, new ways of accrediting learning, new distribution models and new relationships with learning providers and we set out to create a community of developers and learning providers focused on helping adults in the UK to access learning and gain vocational skills by funding innovation in digital technologies.
We named our strategy ‘Learning Without Walls’ as we saw the potential for digital technology to change the way people have access to learning, in particular its role in opening-up access for learners who have been unable to fit into the ‘traditional’ classroom model or formal learning methods.
We also saw the potential for digital learning to provide the opportunity to reach industries and communities that are geographically too spread out to create a sustainable market for traditional training methods.
We knew we couldn’t change the world ourselves, but we had the potential to catalyse a large-scale positive change, focussing on learners who were often overlooked or unloved.
With this in mind Ufi committed its funding to catalyse a step change in vocational learning by supporting innovators to develop early stage ideas for how tech can make a significant difference to the number of people gaining new skills, and to showcase and demonstrate how digital can offer new models and approaches to learning that can work at scale across the vocational sector in the UK.
Ufi grant funding priorities 2015 – 2020
So I am really pleased that I am able to share the evaluation of our grant funding activity over our 2015-2020 strategy cycle and to reflect on how far we have come on our journey.
The insights and case studies in the evaluation report show that we’re making great progress to the priorities we set for our first five years of grant funding and our ambition to catalyse change by building what we now call our ‘VocTech community’.
I am particularly proud that the evaluation shines a light on the way we work at Ufi as a potential model for other grant funders to learn from. Ufi offers much more than funding. Our project enrichment support, underpinned by relationships with our Project Account Managers, and our willingness to take risks and encourage experimentation are recognised as critical pieces of scaffolding that create a supportive environment for innovators, where ideas can be tested and given the best chance to scale and flourish.
The report confirms that:
- Ufi funding is changing the way people have access to learning, at scale
2.6m adults across every stage of their working lives have been impacted by new digital learning tools and approaches funded by Ufi between 2015 and 2019.
- Ufi funding is opening up access for learners who have not been well served by ‘mainstream’ provision
Our projects have been effective in providing accessible opportunities to learn and were often valued for ‘winning hearts and minds’ in sectors or working environments that have not traditionally been advanced in using vocational learning technology.
- The Ufi funding model is catalysing change in the organisations we work with and the wider sector
Our unique approach as a funder and critical friend of innovators is having a lasting impact on the organisations we support beyond the project itself. This includes the formation of new partnerships; the embedding of new knowledge and working practices, new revenue and access to new markets.
View the full infographic (.pdf)
We are grateful to York Consulting for their research and compiling the report, for the projects who shared their experiences so helpfully, from which we have been able to compile some really useful practical insights for anyone who is developing new digital learning solutions in the vocational sector.
I value the opportunity to look back at Ufi’s first strategy cycle, not only to reflect on the progress made, but also to think about what remains relevant for the world we are in today and our next five years. The fast-pace of change identified in our first strategy has not abated. And arguably the need to unlock the potential of digital tools and pedagogies to open up access and offer increased flexibility is – perhaps now more than ever – key to ensuring the UK has the skills it needs to ensure a thriving and sustainable economy and society where everyone is included, and no one is left behind.
In reading this evaluation report I am immensely grateful to every member of the Ufi ‘team’ of trustees, staff, freelancers and the organisations we support who have worked tirelessly to deliver the strategy. And I am also strengthened in my enthusiasm for and commitment to unlocking the continued potential of digital for the UK vocational skills system.
CEO, Ufi VocTech Trust
This evaluation covers our grant funding activities from 2015 to 2019. Our next external evaluation, covering the period of 2020 to 2025, will include our work across grant funding, venture investment and partnerships. We will begin this process with an interim report, expected in 2024.