UCL Grand Challenges


Routes to Opportunity

Addressing the non-university skills gap in England.

Panel including Professor Becky Francis and Sir Vince Cable

10 January 2022


Grant: Ad hoc funding
Year awarded: 2016-17
Amount awarded: £3,675


  • Dr Aly Colman, Institute of Education
  • Rebecca Taylor, Grand Challenge of Justice & Equality

Funding from the Grand Challenge of Justice & Equality led to a report on access to vocational and technical education for the over- 25s in England which investigated the mid-level skills gap some employers face and routes to undertaking technical and vocational education.

The report, Routes to Opportunity: Addressing the non-university skills gap in England, was authored by Institute of Education Doctoral candidate Aly Colman. The report details the skills gap in England, identifying a critical shortage of people in skilled trades and insufficient opportunities through retraining and funding for people to be able to do these jobs. 

The report was launched with a panel discussion featuring Professor Becky Francis and Sir Vince Cable MP. 

The report and the launch event brought together people from a wide range of disciplines and skills areas to discuss a pressing but under-reported political issue. As the report’s author, Aly Colman, noted, “The Routes to Opportunity Report has enabled, through Grand Challenges, the opportunities to disseminate my research in really quite a big way…At the end of the launch event, a lot of people came up to me and spoke about their roles and the ways in which their particular job may interact with what I had done through the Grand Challenges report. So that was really useful and I’ve been able to develop those links and I’ve been connecting with people so that I’m able to follow this project up with connections that are really valuable and really useful.”

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The Routes to Opportunity project exhibition panel at the Grand Challenges, Grand Impacts exhibition, 2023