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Wednesday, 20 October 2021
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Skills for work charity launches white paper to bridge digital divide

Ufi VocTech Trust, the charity for championing the power of technology to improve skills for work, has announced its Vocational Challenge White Paper. The white paper is the culmination of three months of dialogue with the vocational education and technology sector and follows on from the VocTech Challenge Green Paper and consultation period.

At the heart of the design thinking process behind the green paper and white paper is a focus on learners who are disproportionately impacted by the digital divide and absolute and relative digital exclusion.

The green paper identified 5 problem definition areas;

  1. Technology – Technology is a critical issue for those most at risk of being excluded from training. There is a significant equity gap that threatens the chances of ‘levelling up.’
  2. Learner confidence – Confidence to engage with learning has dropped, and this has been compounded by a lack of motivation.
  3. Digital skills – There is generally a lower level of competence in learner groups most likely to be negatively impacted by the pandemic, which blocks access to, and engagement with many learning opportunities.
  4. Social and practical learning – Personalised learning too often gears towards the individual effort, without regard for a learner community and culture or social learning factors.
  5. The VocTech Marketplace – Funding based on time and attendance, rather than the acquisition of skills and a lack of support for the sector to manage innovation.

The white paper addresses these by announcing a commitment by Ufi VocTech Trust to;

  1. A Learner Confidence & Motivation Grant Call: A targeted grant call on how VocTech can solve issues around confidence to create a step-change so that increased learner confidence and motivation leads to better outcomes for the learner, for the employer and for society as a whole.
  2. ‘What Works’ Pilot Projects & Research for Under-Served Learners: Work in partnership to commission pilot projects and research to support innovation and investment in the most underserved communities of learners to help reduce the digital divide and encourage the adoption of ‘what works’ through demonstration and showcasing.
  3. Advocacy: Advocate for change and support other organisations to tackle some of the underpinning wider societal challenges, including the importance of quality resources and CPD for vocational training.

The white paper comes at a crucial time for UK skills development and provides focused solutions for those learners who, without positive intervention, will struggle to get the skills they need to work or progress in employment. 

Dominic Gill, Chair of Ufi VocTech Trust’s Board of Trustees, said:

“We are hopeful about the tech-enabled future of learning, and this white paper sets out the role that Ufi can play, as well as our asks of partners, in ensuring a better, fairer future. A future that is possible through VocTech.”

Rebecca Garrod-Waters, Chief Executive Officer, Ufi VocTech Trust, said:

“Ufi has a really clear role to play in supporting technology that can benefit the hardest hit. This white paper sets out the ways in which we will work over the next 12 months to best align our funding and resources to focus on preventing the skills and life chances catastrophe that is threatening so many.

“There remains a wider context of socio-economic issues that we cannot tackle ourselves but are fundamental to the long-term success of our mission – in this latter area, we offer our relentlessly practical approach to demonstrating what ‘good’ looks like so that policymakers and those with wider responsibilities can use our community and our thinking to help to shape future actions themselves.”

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