Skills for an Economy in Transition

VocTech Challenge 2023

In partnership with Learning and Work Institute

Accelerating 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.

Ufi and Learning and Work Institute have come together at a time of rapid change in the UK economy and labour market to deliver a step-change in the numbers of adults taking part in learning and address the growing skills shortages holding back people, industry and regions across the UK.

Drawing on extensive research and consultation, the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition is an ambitious £3m, multi-year programme of works and funding designed to tackle the complex, interwoven and systemic barriers that contribute to the UK’s continued low rates of adult participation in learning and catalyse an acceleration in the development of skills for work.

"At a time of skills shortage and rapid economic transition, it is essential that everyone in the UK has the opportunity to develop the skills they need. By getting adults learning, including those currently not well served by mainstream provision, we will create the foundation for secure and equitable economic growth that gives everyone in the UK the capacity to thrive".

We believe that equitable growth will require new skills strategies for an economy and labour market in transition and that technology has a critical role to play in opening access and opportunity, so that no one is left behind.

Together, let's #GetAdultsLearning.


Interested in our VocTech Challenge work?
Find out more about our
previous VocTech Challenge programmes.

Infographic showing the six workstreams for Ufi's VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition.

Commitments to get adults learning

By integrating six workstreams of activity across the UK, underpinned by digital tools and pedagogies, we can have a direct and significant impact on local skills participation whilst also enabling the development and demonstration of solutions that will make a difference to adult participation in learning across the UK.

Our six commitments are outlined in the White Paper, but you can explore the workstreams as they develop and keep up to date on our progress below.

  • VocTech Future of Skills Award 2023

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    Celebrating big, tech-enabled ideas of how changes to the UK skills system could transform the way adults get the skills they need for work.

  • Place-based collaboration

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    Explore our place-based collaborations to get adults learning. Part of the VocTech Challenge.

  • VocTech Challenge Grant Fund

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    Our grant call for projects that address the VocTech Challenge. Grants of between £200k and £250k. Applications close 8 July 2024.

  • Ufi Ventures Challenge Fund

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    Our new investment fund from Ufi Ventures. Launching September 2024. Part of the VocTech Challenge.

Background: Our Green and White Papers

The Green Paper was the first output of our partnership with L&W and led to a period of consultation with stakeholders, our partners, and the organisations we support to consider what steps we can collectively take to significantly increase adult participation in learning.

Our White Paper, launched on the 20th June 2023, aims to respond to the Green Paper’s research findings and problem statements and sets out our commitments to an ambitious programme of work and funding to transform adult participation in learning.


  • Green Paper

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    Download the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition Green Paper.

  • VocTech Challenge: White Paper

    Infographic showing the six workstreams for Ufi's VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition.

    Announcing an ambitious new £3m programme of work and funding to #GetAdultsLearning.

Discovery blogs

We reported on the initial phase of our Challenge programme through a regular series of blogs and articles which summarise the discussions taking place with stakeholders across the four nations of the UK. These blogs form the bedrock of our Green Paper which draws out all our new findings.

View all blogs exploring the VocTech Challenge.

To comment on any of the topics or themes please get in touch via:

What will this VocTech Challenge explore?

Over recent years, the labour market has seen significant changes that are impacting its ability to deliver the skilled workforce the UK needs. Significant numbers of people have left work, changes in immigration have reduced our ability to fill skills gaps, and the workforce has gotten older. At a time when the UK labour market is not producing a suitably skilled workforce the economy is changing, fuelled by digitisation, automation and decarbonisation in industries both new and old.

VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition will explore the question:

"How can VocTech (learning technology, digital tools and pedagogies) help narrow inequalities and ensure every adult can participate in learning throughout their working lives, so that the UK has the skills it needs for an economy in transition?"

We are particularly interested in how the challenges of upskilling and reskilling are faced and overcome by:

  • Career changers (adults who need to re-skill in order to thrive at work)
  • Those furthest away from learning (adults who are not currently in work, who do not have easy access to vocational education)
  • Others for whom different exclusionary factors are impacting their ability to gain the skills they need.

How will we do it?

This VocTech Challenge is a partnership between Ufi VocTech Trust and Learning and Work Institute (L&W), supported by individuals and organisations across the sector.

We will review existing research and good practice, challenging current assumptions testing them against evidence from the real, lived experiences of learners and people working in the vocational and adult skills sector.

Through workshops, consultation and interviews we want to hear the voices of those who are not often heard. We will look for new insights and ideas that are practical and actionable, not just what is already common knowledge.

Together we will publish our findings in a series of articles which along with our own research will inform a white paper that sets out a programme of grant funding, partnerships, and advocacy.

The challenge programme will start in January 2023, with the white paper being published in June 2023 and shaping Ufi and our partners’ work over the following two years.

Why we have partnered with Learning and Work Institute

L&W has been at the forefront of shaping thinking and policy around lifelong learning, employment, and inclusion for many years. They research what works, influence policy, develop new ways of thinking, and help implement new approaches.

Read more about our Strategic Partnership.

Skills for an Economy in Transition: Timetable

January 2023 – Launch of the partnership with Learning and Work Institute and the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition.

February to March 2023 – Consultation with stakeholders, learners, and practitioners.

April 2023 – Publication of our initial findings in our Green Paper.

April to May 2023 – Further consultation and consideration of the actions Ufi, our partners and other stakeholders can take to address the identified challenges.

June 2023 onwards – Launch of a VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition White Paper, announcement of a connected Ufi grant call, and new partnership and advocacy work.

Join the movement!

Organisations focused on adult skills are encouraged to get involved with the VocTech Challenge and help #GetAdultsLearning.

To keep up to date and hear about opportunities to get involved with the programme, please complete this form. We will sign you up to the Ufi Community Newsletter and contact you directly when there are opportunities for involvement.

Your details will be used in accordance with the Ufi Privacy Policy and will be shared with our project partner, Learning and Work Institute, in order to communicate with you around this VocTech Challenge programme.

VocTech Challenge news and articles