VocTech Specialist Feedback
by Hilary Stringer, VocTech Specialist Cohort Manager for Ufi Charitable Trust
Rather than feedback on what was missing from the applications that we were not able to take through to the Discovery Phase, let’s take a look at what those that have progressed did to stand out in the assessments.
As you have seen in the guidance for Specialist Call, this time we had two new elements – the Challenge itself, and the Discovery Phase.
The Challenge was to find ways to support those in work, or seeking employment, to develop the skills and competences that are needed in the 21st century workplace. The projects we have selected were able to clearly show us how employers were demanding new or changing skills that a digital solution could help people to understand or develop. Others were also supporting communities that are currently under-served by existing provision or excluded from the job market to have a chance to demonstrate their skills to employers with the potential for a real job opportunity as part of this process.
All of them have in common a vision for how digital can address some of the challenges we are facing in a changing industrial, retail, and service economy.
The Discovery Phase is an innovation for us - there will be a variety of uses of the discovery phase funding, from user consultation to employer engagement, tech discovery to business plan modelling. All of these have a role to play in a good Discovery.
What made applications stand out was where we could clearly see a commitment to set aside preconceptions and be prepared to look again at the real needs of users as well as the problem that they had first identified as an opportunity to intervene. It may mean some of them pivot from their first idea and come back with new solutions, and we welcome this.
The third change in our process for this call was to allow for both VocTech Seed and VocTech Impact projects to be proposed under the same funding round. The projects that were most successful had understood the difference between VocTech Seed (to test an initial concept) and VocTech Impact (to take the idea beyond concept and engage in testing with a significant number of users).
They were able to show us where their idea was in its development and how it would benefit from Ufi support.
It is worth reminding ourselves lastly of the things that Ufi does not fund, or only supports as a special case as part of a broader project that needs an element of these activities. Ufi is committed to digital delivery of services and products, so we are not interested in investing in physical infrastructure or fixed locations and equipment. We want our learners to benefit from access to support as widely as possible, so we also look for evidence that they are scalable beyond the initial pilot. Transforming paper to digital resources is also not usually supported without a significant innovation in platform or delivery methods. Nor do we support pre-16 education or pure research.
Ufi is committed to supporting the most innovative and ambitious projects that it thinks have the potential to demonstrate the ‘art of the possible’ in digital vocational education. We hope that the Discovery Phase of the Specialist Call will enable some new partners to explore those possibilities in more depth and really make a difference in the 21st Century workplace.
Our next funding call opens for applications on 5th June 2019 - see if you and your project fits the critera here.