Is Learning The New Pension?


Blog by Richard Male, Ufi Ventures Team. Tuesday 5th November 2019.

Is Learning The New Pension?


Above is the question posed by Heather E. McGowan in her article on Forbes 'Learning Is The New Pension?' following a keynote speech she gave at the Unleash World summit in Paris. It's an interesting article well worth the time. Towards the end of her article she says

I can only conclude that learning is indeed the new pension. It is how you can create future value today. So, where does the responsibility lie?


Should it be up to the individual worker or the entity to create the space and time for that learning and to provide the learning resources?


I will leave it at the provocation and let those debates now begin.

She has provoked me to muse. As we are gifted the wonder of technology and digital services to enhance our lives, how is the shift in learning for work going to be fuelled? Picking up on the pension analogy, in the UK we have gone from company provided final salary pension schemes and annuities (in theory, the employee didn’t have to worry about the future because their employer took care of them) to a system where the individual has far more responsibility and accountability for pension saving, incentivised by government’s tax breaks and regulation (there are pluses and minus to this too).
So, if learning was to follow the same model then we should expect a shift in responsibility from workplace mandated training to incentives for individuals to engage independently in work-related learning. Which sounds great but – like pensions – this surely gives scope for complexity and confusion at a time when what and how we learn is undergoing significant change. There’s all the lovely tech acronyms of AI, ML, AR, VR, XR, which are impacting both what and how we learn; and the nature of work itself is changing rapidly, refocusing what employers value in hard and soft skills.
This consumerisation of vocational learning provides an interesting challenge for innovators and entrepreneurs. Do we focus on developing B2B offer or do we focus on B2C? At the headline level these are two quite different markets with a shared outcome (learning achieved) but with quite different requirements, approaches, customer expectations and price points. The B2B customer probably has more of an interest in a consumer’s (users) perspective and value proposition than the B2C customer does in satisfying the B2B (employers) requirements (more on this in a future post). We need also to overlay the increasing need for accreditation, sound pedagogy and efficacy of solution. This paragraph probably demonstrates why big tech companies have been unable to significantly disrupt the learning market to date. By comparison, it’s only very recently that digital consumer propositions have taken off in the pension market with the era of robo-advisors etc.
The consumerisation of vocational technologies is a key theme in our investment thesis at Ufi Ventures. We think opening up learning in this way can significantly increase the use of vocational technologies (#VocTech) to equip individuals and the UK economy with the diverse set of skills and capabilities required both now and in the future.
If this resonates with you and you have products, services, or ideas that align with this vision please keep in touch with us on Twitter @UfiVentures, LinkedIn UfiVentures, or visit us at

Image: Courtesy of Learning Labs who received from funding from us for a project called Flash Academy Workplace to develop a tool that enables people to learn language in the workplace.