About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Open Jobs: Making labour markets smarter and empowering jobseekers

Many people struggle to navigate their way through a life of work - finding out how to get the right job, and sometimes any job; how and when to gain new skills; and how to cope with a labour market where jobs are constantly being created and destroyed.

To find out more about Nesta's Open Jobs programme of work, please go to the project page.

But we may now be on the cusp of a step change in how labour markets work, thanks to the opportunity to bring together data and new tools. These can’t solve the underlying challenges. But they can help people avoid unnecessary mistakes and they can better connect people to jobs and skills that in turn can have a huge impact on their wellbeing.

Recent years have seen a rush of tech innovation in jobs including integrated HR, talent and learning management systems, ranging from tech giants to startups (e.g. Google for Jobs and ideal platform).

But although the top end of the labour market is well served, the majority are not and too many of the current tech solutions are flawed, confusing to users, and not using the best data sets. And although 75.3 per cent of adults in the UK are in jobs, this headline figure masks some deep inefficiencies and problems of stagnant pay, social mobility and productivity and major failures in the transition to work.

At Nesta we think that at least some parts of this problem are solvable through mobilising labour market data - much of which remains largely unused - and developing new human-centered digital tools which make insights easily digestible.

We’ve supported tools for teenagers to make subject choices based on live labour market data (Skills Route); skills analysis tools using all job advertisements (Skills Profiler); and detailed forecasts of which jobs are likely to be at most risk of disappearing in the next two decades (Future Skills 2030). We also invest in some fantastic labour market companies, like Getmyfirstjob which has helped a million young people.

Skills route
Skills map
Jobs 3

The next step is to bring these together into useful tools at the level of a city or region that can support everyone making choices about jobs and skills - creating something closer to a true collective intelligence. This is the aim of Open Jobs.

This example is part of a broader family of fields where there’s a need to curate data on problems and challenges in ways that can make it easier for others to generate solutions (a topic we will be pursuing in other fields through Nesta’s new Centre for Collective Intelligence Design).

The living problem for job-seekers and careers advisers

Although the UK has record proportions of people in work, big problems remain: 1 in 10 don’t make a successful transition into work (NIESR, 2017); 1 in 4 struggle to escape low paid work over a 10 year period (Social Mobility Commission, 2016); young people are 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed than adults as a whole, and 800,000 16-24 years olds are NEETs (not in education, employment or training).

Open Jobs aims to address these challenges with a new shared backbone infrastructure of real time labour market data to support decisions of all kinds.

The data needs to cover: local jobs/skills demand and supply; future jobs forecasts that indicate the reliability of different career pathways; and other factors influencing employability and pay and other outcomes. This then needs to be personalised to fit users' needs.

The outcomes we aim to achieve are: better informed decisions; better matching of skill supply and demand; higher resilience for those at risk of unemployment and underemployment (young people, LMI, older working population); and increased social mobility.

Live examples already exist that provide some of these elements, including Nesta’s Skills Profiler, Recommender Engine, Skills Route, Future Skills 2030 , Burning Glass Technologies, Geek Talent, Cyber Seek, The GoodPeople, Start by U-explore, SBRI through the Department of Education and many more listed here. But these haven’t been brought together in a useful tool for decision makers - jobseekers, careers navigators and employers alike.

Making it work for job seekers

Part of the challenge involves pulling together the right data - for example on vacancies, skills provision and demand. But many of the biggest challenges are about use - and fitting the needs of likely users. Conversations with job-seekers confirm that any new services need to:

  • Avoid information overload - and the resulting stress by making options clear and simple
  • Use accessible visualisation - so that different pathways can be grasped
  • Build trust - ideally through a reliable and trusted voice in a crowded information market
  • Be personal - interaction and information received is fitted to personal characteristics and preferences
  • Offer simple and easy navigation and structure - (e.g. visual / video / rank / filter) and information that is consistent across different career paths
  • Push - information output is ‘pushed’ to the user in a timely manner (e.g. Amazon suggestions / Facebook notifications)

Who might use these services?

Open Jobs could help anyone who is lacking clear information about the labour market, including policymakers needing to see real-time skill supply and demand; employers needing to understand future skills gaps by occupation; career-advisors needing to make sense of changing opportunities; and job-seekers needing to decide on their options.

Each will need very different tools to adapt underlying data both to their specific needs and to their cognitive and cultural styles. We envisage Open Jobs as a backbone on top of which a range of services can be developed.

To enable successful upskilling and transitions into work through data, we know we must look deeper into career related user behaviour. Research by CEC (2017) suggests there are five types of job-seeking decision makers (disengaged, fixed, satisficing, gathering, validating) who each need different guidance to nudge them into their preferred job.

It’s unrealistic to expect young, vulnerable, or at risk people who are already stressed and overloaded by career options to be the agents of their own change. Objective trusted information combined with the right intermediaries is vital to ensure these new tools can help job-seekers to see change.

The Open Jobs concept

The idea behind Open Jobs is to create a family of tools that make use of the full range of data sources - public, commercial, web-scraping - to empower job seekers, employers, local government alike.

This would enable job-seekers in a specific city or sector to:

  1. See a local map of real time job adverts and employment opportunities - skills supply and demand
  2. Explore the future job landscape in 2030, including skills needed by occupation and future industry growth or fall
  3. Educate careers navigators (the middle man, i.e. careers advisors, parents, teachers) on the longevity of occupations and skills - demand now and what will be needed in the future
  4. Design upskilling training programmes and educational curricula based on future industry needs
  5. Compare different jobs by skills required and job outcomes: salary / future proof / satisfaction / location
  6. Create and track your career journey based on your skills and stage in career journey – become aware of moments of hard choice and moments for inspiration
  7. Connect employers and educational institutions to job-seekers through push outreach and targeted communications for employment and educational opportunities
  8. Experience industries and occupations through video stories and live social media connections with employers and mentors

We are currently working with a group of partners to design the first prototypes of this, and also keen to learn from others doing similar projects in all sectors.

(Download a PDF version of the image below)

Open Jobs

What’s next?

Detailed discussions are now underway in several cities and locations (including Edinburgh, Essex and the West Midlands) to put this idea into practice, focusing initially on key target groups (eg school-leavers, employees in jobs that are at risk, or data-rich industries like digital skills).

Our aim is to demonstrate how labour markets can become more collectively intelligent and create a new generation of public services that provide and curate information to support better decisions.


Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Chief Executive Officer

Geoff Mulgan was Chief Executive of Nesta from 2011-2019.

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Rosalinda Baker

Rosalinda Baker

Rosalinda Baker

Executive Research Assistant

Rosalinda sat in the CEO team as Executive Research Assistant where she explored whatever is front of mind for Geoff Mulgan - researching, evidence gathering & design thinking.

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