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Impact of AI has big implications for the skills sector warns new report by Ufi and AELP

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A new report (Future-Ready Vocational Education: Harnessing Technology for Success) released by Ufi VocTech Trust and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers has warned of the big implications that AI (artificial intelligence) will have on skills training in the coming years – and calls on the UK Government to work closely with the sector to establish guidelines to ensure its ethical use.

Future-Ready Vocational Education: Harnessing Technology for Success

The report, ‘Future-Ready Vocational Education: Harnessing Technology for Success’ was written by AELP’s Dr Chihiro Kobayashi, and is set to be launched at AELP National Conference today (Monday 26 June).

The research was commissioned on the back of advances in the use of technology throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – and looks at what the future may hold for technology use within skills training. The publication of the report is timely, following recent call for evidence on generative artificial intelligence in education launched by the Department for Education.

A key finding from the ‘Future-Ready Vocational Education: Harnessing Technology for Success’ report is that while demand for learning management systems is increasing, training providers generally have a positive perspective on new technologies like AI. However, as the education sector is still in the early stages of using new and developing AI learning technologies, there are concerns that these technologies could serve to widen existing inequalities.

As a result, AELP and Ufi VocTech Trust are calling on the UK Government to work closely with the sector to establish guidelines for the ethical use of AI in education, encompassing responsible deployment, data privacy, and transparent algorithms. Collaborating with Independent Training Providers (ITPs) to incorporate ethics and responsible AI into the curriculum is crucial.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Remote learning continues to be widely used with around 70% of training providers using a blended approach of remote and in-person methods, while 13% rely solely on remote learning.  
  • 85% of ITPs are open to adopting new technologies, and 72% of them intend to further increase their usage within the next three years.
  • There are significant barriers to technology use including connectivity issues, such as lack of Wi-Fi (55%) and devices (66%), and lack of digital skills including digital pedagogy (64%), all of which can greatly and adversely impact learning.

Report Recommendations

Based on the research findings, the report recommends significant government investment in technology infrastructure; a need to foster greater collaboration and knowledge sharing; the development of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes for digital skills and pedagogies; financial support for digital accessibility; and the promotion of ethical use of AI in education.

A full copy of ‘Future-Ready Vocational Education: Harnessing Technology for Success’ can be found on AELP’s website here.

Paul Warner, Director of Strategy and Business Development at AELP, said:

“Vocational education and training providers play a vital role in closing the skills gap, but to ensure that everyone can get the skills they need, and ensure no one is left behind, we must take advantage of all that digital technology has to offer. AI will deliver both threats and opportunities for the sector and it’s vital that we understand its power, and think very carefully about how we respond to its development including establishing guidelines for its ethical use.”

Louise Rowland, Deputy CEO at Ufi VocTech Trust, said:

“With the UK facing serious skills shortages, we know that technology can play a vital role in supporting independent training providers to deliver the skills we need. As a result of this new research, we are better able to understand some of the barriers and opportunities facing training providers. In particular, the importance of ensuring staff have the CPD offer required to develop their digital skills and pedagogies, and the opportunities to take advantage of new technologies such as AI.”

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