This week saw the launch of a new report entitled Skills for an Economy in Transition, written and published by Ufi VocTech Trust in partnership with Learning and Work Institute.

Ufi VocTech Trust is a grant funder and investor supporting the development and deployment of technology for adult vocational skills and Learning and Work Institute is a leading policy, research and development organisation.

The report was previewed at a meeting of the APPG for Adult Education last week, chaired by Margaret Greenwood MP and hosted by the WEA.

The “Voc” in “VocTech” is short for vocational but many of the findings and recommendations in the new report could just as well apply to all forms of adult learning.

Ufi’s main interest is identifying ways in which technology can support new practice in adult learning, especially where this makes learning more inclusive.

The new report is framed as a White Paper as it builds on a previous Green Paper which was out for consultation earlier in the year. In this way, the recommendations are informed by a wider readership as well as by the core research.

For the White Paper, the research has been condensed into six key findings, summarised below:

  • There has been a continued lack of investment from successive governments
  • The skills system is fragmented making it harder for learners to navigate
  • The economy is in transition and skills needs are changing
  • Not enough has been achieved in overcoming persistent barriers to learning (either motivational or practical barriers)
  • There is a digital divide and access to technology is not equal
  • Learning is not always fully valued, or its impact understood

Out of these six broad findings – each with a wealth of analysis behind them – comes a £3m commitment to six work streams:

  • The VocTech Future of Skills Award which will seek to support big, tech-enabled, practical ideas from thought leaders, futurists and new thinkers that will help get more adults learning
  • A new programme of place-based collaboration – overcoming the biggest barriers in four locations across the UK where there is a particular need for greater participation in adult learning
  • A thorough evaluation programme for the place-based projects
  • A new grant funding programme
  • Supporting organisations through venture investment
  • An advocacy campaign to make the case for the critical importance of increasing adult participation in learning

The WEA will be exploring opportunities to engage with some of these work programmes particularly where they might support our growing skills for work strands.

Having adapted our delivery during the pandemic lockdowns and committed to retaining digital platforms as a key part of our learner offer, we are very alert to the ways in which technology can open up learning for some but create barriers for others. We have been working hard to make the most of new technology while also understanding the needs of learners.

The WEA’s vision is adult learning within reach. It’s vital that we determine where technology fits into that vision and we welcome the Ufi VocTech Trust and Learning and Work Institute’s work which will support the whole sector to find innovative solutions to increasing participation.


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Simon Parkinson, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the WEA
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Simon Parkinson

Chief Executive and General Secretary

Simon Parkinson is the Chief Executive and General Secretary of the WEA.