VocTech Specialist 2019: The Journey Continues
Blog by Hilary Stringer, Project Account Manager for Ufi VocTech Trust
We had the privilege on Wednesday 4th March to spend the day with the ten projects in the VocTech Specialist Call 2019 cohort. These brave souls have navigated their way through the Discovery Phase and are now in the process of launching their VocTech Seed or VocTech Impact projects to test their ideas for real.
This funding call is all about preparing people for the future workplace - helping them build the skills needed to succeed as the nature of work changes or find new ways into work to meet skills shortages.
A wonderfully diverse set of learners are being supported, with complex challenges including finding time away from work to be able to learn, re-settling into life after prison, breaking into large company recruitment tracks that normally only take graduates, or living and thriving with learning disabilities and mental health issues.
We spent much of the time in the workshop looking at the how we understand the needs of those learners and how to translate those needs, through good learning design, into real results that can change their future prospects - looking deeper than their most obvious, surface needs. Lack of confidence and its impact on how users engage with learning is one of the common themes that emerged in many of the projects.
We also looked back at our shared experiences of the Discovery Phase. Ufi was learning too as this is the first time we have used design thinking as a front-end to our process – discover and design before you develop and deliver.
The common advice that came out from projects was to just leap in and do it. Discovery can be quite disconcerting as you need to set aside all prior conceptions of what you’re familiar with and really listen to your users. Reflect, don’t assume. Understand that ‘can’t’ is often a polite mask for ‘won’t’ and can be challenged. Above all, projects shared with us that they had enjoyed the luxury of having dedicated funded time to step back and take a wider view before beginning the process of building a solution.
Our other main session was on Evaluation – how do we know if what we have built really works?
It may seem odd to do that right at the start of the process, but we know from experience that it is the best time to think about it. Using examples of successful Ufi past projects, we looked at what evidence needs to be gathered from the very start so that you know the baseline you’re working from and can measure how far your learners progress. Being crystal clear on your objectives, eliminating the wooliness from your goals, and then working back to see what interventions you need to plan for to make it all happen can pay dividends in the end. It also means you gather the right data and user stories as you go along, making the final evaluation much easier to complete and much more meaningful.
For me, the best thing about the day (a close second being the cake) was the buzz of conversation and sharing. Links were made between projects where they could see they were tackling similar challenges in different sectors, where some tech ideas could be shared to help others, or simply the relief of knowing everyone else hasn’t got it all sorted and is still working out what to do. Having Jane Holmes, VocTech Seed Cohort Manager, with us for the afternoon to share her experience of three VocTech Seed cohorts was really helpful as her advice was based on the real and lived experience of our past projects. We’re really looking forward to seeing what our Discovery pioneers do next….
— Socrates360 (@socrates_360) March 5, 2020
Thanks to the team @UfiTrust for an inspirational #VocTech Specialist Workshop this week in Sheffield. Great to meet wider projects, share ideas and identify future collaborations. #TechForGood #VocTech #edtech #Industry40 pic.twitter.com/GoFAJ2kOQI
— Career Matters (@CareerMattersUK) March 7, 2020