Newsletter - #VocTech Specialist 2019

This is a challenge led call, rather than the open calls we normally issue, which is a new approach for Ufi. 

Digital tech and the 4th Industrial Revolution are changing the nature of work, with industries and organisations restructuring and jobs ‘disappearing’. The speed and magnitude of the change creates real challenges for individuals and organisations trying to adapt and prosper, while there is a widening gap between the skills people have and the skills employers need. We believe that digital technology is part of the solution to these problems. Our VocTech Specialist Call has been designed to support projects which are seeking to respond to the challenges arising where employers and individuals need to think very differently about the skills needed to survive in a changing landscape of work – and how those skills are to be acquired so people can access future jobs.

You can read more in our recent blogs and find all the information you need to apply to the call.

Using digital tech to meet the challenges.

In this call, we are looking for innovative solutions for adult vocational skills provision which directly tackle the issues which are arising from the changing nature of work. This includes the difficulties facing businesses and sectors struggling to adapt and take advantage of new opportunities emerging from technological change; and the difficulties for individuals facing challenges in accessing ‘future’ work or opportunities to upskill/reskill. These difficulties can be compounded by distance or financial hardship, past learning, English language skills or disability – so that employers who are struggling to fill vacancies or access the workforce skills they need can’t make use of the potential of these groups and individuals.

Some Ufi projects are starting to address these issues and the examples below illustrate some of the types of approaches being tested. Skills Live is helping young people understand the new opportunities to use digital skills for emerging roles in the rail sector and guiding them to job roles they might not have previously considered – or even known existed. This is one example of how tech is supporting individuals to upskill and prepare for jobs they never thought they could do – or didn’t know existed and enabling employers to recruit to new roles in industries where technology is changing how work is done. 

Open Networking Lab provides an open access platform where learners can develop introductory, practical networking skills through a web-based network simulation package, as the start point to progress to further upskilling or qualifications and access a whole new set of work opportunities and help employers meet skills gaps in this area of increasing technical need.

Not all learners are equipped to take advantage of training opportunities. Some lack the skills or confidence to access existing vocational learning. The entry points for courses may be out of reach without the prior learning or language necessary to navigate a complex sign up process or learning pathway. Code Your Future is testing a tool to enable refugees to access publicly available coding courses. Bite-sized instructions to guide applicants through individual learning roadmaps tailored to match learning levels and progress. There is significant demand for coders, with UK employers struggling to recruit employees with this core skill and this project will increase the pool of skilled people available in the UK workforce.  

Many individuals find themselves at a point where there is a widening gap between the skills they have and the skills they need. The nature of the work they do might be changing, or the industry they are in has restructured or moved. Digital technology can help reskill adults in work, meeting their changing needs so that they can continue to succeed in the sector they work in or transition to new industries. Digital Retail Futures is addressing the challenges facing employers and workers in the UK retail sector, through a digital learning platform which aims to address the skills gaps identified by retailers. It targets employees at risk of redundancy from traditional retail sector jobs and supports them to upskill and reskill, with an initial focus on digital marketing, digital customer service and warehouse operations, to achieve their vision of a ‘future-proof’ retail sector with a skilled and adaptive workforce.

A skill learned is a skill used.

For the VocTech Specialist 2019 call we want to see project applications focused on using digital tech to help bridge the gap between the skills employers need and the skills employees can offer. All Ufi projects must aim to make a real and practical contribution to workplace skills development, with the ultimate aim of improving workplace productivity and economic growth. Projects must be work-focused and make sure that a ‘skill learned is a skill used’. All the projects described above are designed to address the needs of employers, and applications to our VocTech Specialist Call must be able to explain how they are going to do this.  

We expect that the projects will be able to show tangible evidence of the employer need for the skill set that will develop through the project activity. For this call, we would expect to see employers engaged in the Discovery Phase and in the subsequent delivery of projects.

The VocTech Specialist 2019 Call is open on 12th March – you can join a workshop or webinar for additional information and support.  We are looking forward to working with a new cohort of projects to bring forward even more solutions to the real challenges facing employers and individuals in adapting to the future nature of work.