Green Paper

Skills for an Economy in Transition

Download the Green Paper (.pdf).

Ufi VocTech Trust and Learning and Work Institute (L&W) have come together for the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition, to better understand some of the biggest challenges in adult vocational education and support some of the most impactful solutions.

Through a review of existing research and good practice, and by challenging current assumptions testing them against evidence from the real, lived experiences of learners and people working in the learning and skills sector, we have better understood the landscape of adult learning.

We are publishing the results of this research in this Green Paper which sets out six key findings regarding the adult skills landscape, and concludes with three problem statements that bring together the themes of those findings through the lenses of a transitioning economy, learners, the skills system, and the role of digital technology and pedagogies.

"This report, and our partnership with Learning and Work Institute (L&W), is testament to our commitment to widening opportunity and access to vocational learning. It is only by getting more people learning throughout their lives that we will be able to extend opportunity to those further from traditional provision, achieve greater levels of more equitable growth and better prepare ourselves for an economy in transition."

Rebecca Garrod-Waters
CEO, Ufi VocTech Trust

Green Paper launch webinar

Re-watch the Green Paper launch webinar in which Ufi, Learning and Work Institute and invited guests discussed the ideas presented in the Green Paper.

Research Findings

Through the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an Economy in Transition, we have challenged ourselves to understand the biggest problems in adult vocational education – in particular, the problems that are stopping the UK from being prepared with the skills needed for a fair and inclusive transitioning economy.

Through consultation with partners, key stakeholders, learners, practitioners, and employers we have made six key research findings:

  1. Investment and funding
    A continued lack of investment in skills from governments and employers prevents the learning and skills system adapting to the needs of an economy in transition. In particular without more equal investment, those with lower levels of qualifications and in less well-paid sectors will not have the chance to benefit from learning.
  2. Fragmented skills system
    The fragmented and complex skills system inhibits access to learning. Individuals are unsure of where to look for learning opportunities and which opportunities are best suited to their needs. This also prevents the collaborative working needed to address systemic barriers and meet employer and learner needs.
  3. Changing skills needs
    A wide range of evolving skills will be needed for an economy in transition. In order to meet the demand for this changing skill set, we need to make sure our qualification and assessment system is flexible and that we use the right language to talk about skills, focusing on core skill sets.
  4. Learner barriers
    Pervasive learner barriers persist and remain unaddressed, limiting our ability to prepare for an economy in transition. There is a failure to speak to real motivations and confidence to learn, as well as address more practical barriers such as cost, time, transport, and childcare that have been worsened by the cost of living crisis.
  5. Digital divide
    Digital skills and digital access are essential for work and learning. The digital divide impacts individuals, trainers and organisations. While the Covid-19 pandemic widened access to online and blended learning, we need to ensure this opportunity is open to all by using accessible technologies, building confidence and digital skills.
  6. Value of learning
    The true value of adult learning is still not understood by individuals or employers, while providers and policy makers do not have access to methodologically rigorous evidence of what improves learning outcomes. Unless individuals and employers can be motivated to invest in learning, other adjustments to the skills systems will fail.

Green Paper Problem Statements

Our research found that the biggest problems in learning and skills were not only the specific challenges faced by individuals, but also the difficulties individuals, providers and employers face when accessing, navigating and adapting the ‘system’ to meet their needs. Our research shows that the UK needs to think differently about learning and skills, address the fragmentation of the skills system and insufficient join up with other public policy areas, and develop and deploy the digital solutions that will make a difference to adult participation in learning.

Our three problem statements are:

  1. The skills for an economy in transition
    The skills and learning opportunities that are needed to support an economy in transition are neither clear nor equitably accessible. We need to inspire adults and employers into learning and clearly communicate the benefits to policy makers. We need to ensure providers have the evidence of what works.
  2. Skills system for an economy in transition
    The current skills system is fragmented and is failing to keep pace with a shifting landscape. We need a more collaborative and integrated skills system to benefit from devolution, place based learning, growing online and blended learning offers, and the changing mix of national policy and local leadership. We need to better align the system to developments in regeneration, infrastructure, health and social care.
  3. Digital technology for an economy in transition
    Faced with a changing world, we are not acting fast enough to adopt and embed the technology necessary to creating accessible lifelong learning. We need to develop and deploy better technology to provide learning offers that fit around work and home life, building resilient learners while embedding a culture of lifelong learning.

Our problem statements can be seen through two lenses; an individual centred view that considers how adults, particularly career changers and those who are not well served by mainstream provision, experience the learning and skills system, and a systems view that centres on how providers, employers and practitioners experience the same problems through fragmented public policy. This is twinned with the knowledge that due to a range of factors, including the impacts of policy and underfunding, education has been an uneven adopter of digital technology when compared to other sectors of the economy. This analysis formed the basis of our three problem statements.

Detailed reflections of how our problem statements can can be viewed through our two lenses are provided in the Green Paper publication.

Green Paper consultation

Although our consultation on the Green Paper closed on 16th May, you can still submit your feedback below.

We welcome your thoughts on:

  • Whether our problem statements have identified critical challenges in adult vocational learning
  • What additional evidence you have to support or counter this.
  • What work is already being done to tackle these challenges.
  • Where Ufi VocTech Trust and our partners can act together to help close the gaps.

Our aim is that we then use these comments, suggestions, and ideas to frame a White Paper, to be launched in June 2023, where we set out how Ufi, Learning and Work Institute and our partners can best use our resources – be they funding, advocating for best practice, or collaborating with others – and develop specific solutions.

Our White Paper will:

  • Announce a VocTech Challenge open grant call
  • Launch a programme of advocacy with Learning and Work Institute on 13 June at the APPG for Adult Education.
  • Build on our partnership with Learning and Work Institute, and a range of other organisations over the coming months and years.

Submit your feedback