Place-based collaboration: an update from Hull

Danny Price, Researcher, Learning and Work Institute


29 01 2024


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As part of the VocTech Challenge: Skills for an economy in transition, Ufi VocTech Trust (Ufi) and Learning and Work Institute (L&W) are working with local stakeholders across the UK with expertise in education, employment and skills, to identify the key local barriers to adult participation in learning and consider what actions we can take to address those barriers together. We are pleased to share some of the themes arising from our discussions to date.

To find out more about our place-based collaborations, and the Green and White Papers that set out the background and commitments of the VocTech Challenge programme, please visit

Hull: Themes from our discussions to date

In October 2023, L&W and Ufi led an online workshop with stakeholders from Hull’s education and voluntary sectors. We identified the current challenges and opportunities for adult learning in the city:

  • Making the case for the value of learning
    Stakeholders felt that historically, the value of learning and its wide range of employment, social and health benefits, have not been made clear to some groups in the city, particularly young people. They recognised that Hull’s City of Culture title, awarded in 2017, had increased pride in the city as a good place to live, work and learn. While the accolade has been a major driver of success for the city’s economy, stakeholders considered how this momentum could be harnessed to boost the adult learning sector.
  • Adults in the city face multiple barriers to engaging in learning
    Stakeholders cited similar barriers to those identified in our Green Paper. This included lack of confidence and motivation to learn and work; limited awareness of opportunities in the city; lack of time among full-time workers; poor digital skills; and financial barriers, such as childcare costs, exacerbated by the rising cost of living.
  • Despite these barriers, there are areas of opportunity to target engagement efforts
    Across the city there is a strong demand for English, maths and ESOL learning; a growing interest in learning for leisure and hobbies; and sufficient funding to satisfy this demand. Stakeholders also explained that Hull has a thriving voluntary sector and that their organisations already support volunteers to build confidence and skills. However, they suggested that engagement with volunteering was much higher among certain groups, for example, white women from middle class backgrounds, and hoped that participation could be broadened, to include underrepresented demographics, for example, men, young people and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

L&W and Ufi believe that for many people in Hull the value placed on learning is often outweighed by the range of social, economic, or dispositional barriers to learning. To boost engagement in learning, we want to tip the balance by promoting the long-term benefits of learning, while supporting people to overcome the barriers they face.

Barriers to learning (1)

Early conversations suggest that to support this ambition, the Hull partnership could focus on:

  • Demonstrating and increasing the value of learning, particularly for adults from under-represented groups, and identifying how they can be supported into learning.
  • Initiating collaboration between the education, voluntary and community sectors to develop best practice approaches and create progression pathways – for example, from volunteering to learning and/or employment.

Over the next few months, Ufi and L&W will continue to work closely with stakeholders in Hull to develop the next steps in the programme.

We welcome involvement from local organisations working in education, employment and skills and any feedback on our discussions to date.

Get involved

To get involved please email us directly at