CareerTech Challenge Fund: Meet the innovators

Nesta, in partnership with the Department for Education, supported 11 organisations to develop digital solutions to improve adult learner motivation and career adaptability (the ability for an individual to cope with current and future changes to work) through online courses. Funded projects provided upskilling and retraining for those at risk of losing their roles due to automation. The CareerTech Challenge is now closed. The summaries below include an update on the innovators progress throughout the programme and their reflections of their experience over the last 15 months.

Meet the recipients of the CareerTech Challenge grants:

Agent Academy CIC

Awarded £150,000

Agent Academy is an award-winning, industry designed and delivered learning programme aimed at young people, aged between 18 and 25, who find themselves – post-higher education – without the skills to begin their careers in the digital, creative or tech industry. During a 12-week programme, they learn from digital and creative specialists with contributions from business leaders and experts. Alongside industry training, participants work on a real-life client brief, offering a practical approach to learning to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running and successfully kick-start their future careers.

Funding supported Agent Academy to expand their existing course into a fully online version, Leap, which provides a wider cohort of learners with the digital, creative & tech skills they need to change careers. Agent Academy designed and developed unique, personalised learning content using 'real world' scenarios to increase employability of learners through automatically generated work portfolios which can be attached to the learner’s CV.

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog

CENTURY

Awarded £249,999

CENTURY is an award-winning AI education technology company. Their team of teachers, neuroscientists and technologists develop world-leading artificial intelligence tools for schools across the world. On CENTURY, learners are provided with a personalised recommended path (RP) containing micro-lessons (known as nuggets). Each nugget contains learning materials and assessment questions. The RP is designed to stretch, challenge and support memory retention in learners. The pathway is continuously adapting for each learner based on their own learning experience. Learners also have access to learner analytics in the My Dashboard page which informs learners of their progress.

Funding supported CENTURY to pivot their existing product to provide English and Maths courses, including both GCSE and Functional Skills Levels 1 and 2, to a cohort of learners more susceptible to labour market changes.

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog.

CENTURY was also featured as a case study as part of our evaluation of CareerTech Challenge. You can read the findings from their project-level evaluation here.

Citizen Literacy CIC

Awarded £204,900

Citizen Literacy CIC, an independent social enterprise spinout from the City of Glasgow College, worked with its partners: ccConsultancy Ltd; ReachWill Ltd; Micro-phonics Ltd; Scottish TUC Union Learn; That Reading Thing to develop an existing prototype smartphone app to provide adaptive, personalised support and encouragement for adult learners taking their first steps in learning to read and write. The app reduces the stigma and anxiety these learners face by providing an independent learning solution based on the English ETF-endorsed phonics methodology for functional skills. It provides a bridge for developing confidence in learners to move on and approach their local learning providers to continue their journey.

Funding supported the project partners to create and develop an introductory adult literacy training course, featuring voice and handwriting recognition for learner input, and an online tutor persona to guide the learners, providing verbal feedback.

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog.

Citizen Literacy CIC was also featured as a case study as part of our evaluation of CareerTech Challenge. You can read the findings from their project-level evaluation here.

Coventry University Online

Awarded £248,003

Coventry University Online is a relatively new but already experienced provider of distance learning, delivering online courses at scale to global cohorts of degree students up to Master’s level. Coventry University Online is well versed in providing world-class and socially-orientated education flexibly, and understands the barriers that may exist for many adult learners.

Funding supported Coventry University Online, in partnership with FutureLearn, to develop and test a new student-centred digital skills course for adults below degree level, with a focus on the use of different digital tools to enhance learner motivation and improve student completion rates. The Career Skills for the 2020s course was delivered over four weeks and focused on employability skills such as motivation at work, communication, resilience and emotional intelligence, and CV development. Social learning tools were included throughout the course, such as activities with comments sections and peer review exercises.

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog.

Digital Mums

Awarded £200,000

Digital Mums is a social media training company specialising in getting mums job-ready so they can create flexible careers that fit around family life. They believe that encouraging women to become lifelong learners is the route to reducing maternal unemployment and supporting women to find rewarding, flexible careers.

Funding supported the development and scale-up of their project-based online learning course - Digital Mums Bootcamp - for mums currently in roles at risk of automation.

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog.

Game Academy

Awarded £175,000

Every second person in the UK plays video games. Many of the most popular games demand complex problem solving, active learning and decision-making, and ask players to manage teams, resources and adversity. Game Academy enables gamers to acquire new skills and consolidate those they already have through structured game play and online content.

Funding was used to build and implement an analysis and diagnosis of learners' game play and capabilities to their existing platform. It aimed to gain an understanding of how analysis and diagnosis of a player's in-game talent can help signpost them to new learning opportunities; and how peer learning opportunities, rewards and role models can increase learner motivation.

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog.

Game Academy was also featured as a case study as part of our evaluation of CareerTech Challenge. You can read the findings from their project-level evaluation here.

MyKindaFuture

Awarded £241,000

MyKindaFuture has built and developed Connectr, an employee experience platform that ensures everyone feels a sense of belonging at each stage of their professional journey: from career inspiration, to first jobs and support once in a role. Through the platform, employees are matched with a peer mentor and provided with relevant learning content to help them progress. MyKindaFuture sought to test whether their combination of learning content and peer mentoring improves learner motivation and career adaptability.

Funding supported the development of machine learning to improve peer mentoring matching systems, and the digital design of learning content for employer partners

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog.

Saffron Interactive, in partnership with TUC unionlearn

Awarded £249,999

Saffron Interactive is passionate about developing learning which creates a sense of ownership over new behaviours, and new values for the learner. Regulated and accredited by the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI), Saffron Interactive has ranked in the top 15 Learning Technologies providers in LPI’s awards since their inception. For the CareerTech Challenge, Saffron Interactive partnered with unionlearn, the learning and skills organisation of the TUC.

Funding was used to develop Create Your Own Future – an online employment support platform, available to Union members. Saffron Interactive developed an AI enabled mentor, a skills assessment, career recommendation engine, an action planning function and a dashboard - an ongoing hub for the learner to use to help them continue working towards their career aspirations, as well as determining how they want their journey to continue - to create personalised paths for learners. The solution has voice and video recognition features so is accessible to all.

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog.

Sopra Steria, in partnership with ELATT

Awarded £249,999

Sopra Steria is a European leader in consulting, technology transformation and software development. Sopra Steria partnered with ELATT, a London based adult learning provider, to co-develop an online workplace skills course, DigiLearn. DigiLearn provides learners with the necessary soft and hard skills to succeed in the future world of work.

Funding was used to support the development and user testing of digital interventions such as chatbots, adaptive learning pathways and gamification to find the most effective way to encourage learner motivation.

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog.

The Open University

Awarded £240,000

The Open University is an expert in distance and online learning. Combining this with its industry and academic experience in cyber security education, they aimed to demystify cybersecurity, giving learners confidence to engage with the digital world and gain further skills to enhance their career options in the changing economy.

Funding supported the adaptation of the current OpenLearn cyber security course to a Gamified Intelligent Cyber Aptitude and Skills Training Course (GICAST). Alongside gamification, GICAST used artificial intelligence and behaviour analytics to personalise learning to increase learner motivation.

You can read more about their experience in their reflection blog.

Wizenoze, in partnership with Cell-Ed

Awarded £225,000

Wizenoze was founded in 2013 to solve the challenge faced by learners of finding too much, inappropriate and/or irrelevant information by facilitating access to tailored education through developing industry-leading technologies. Learners can search and find content online that matches their needs and reading skills.

For the CareerTech Challenge, Wizenoze partnered with Cell-Ed, a Silicon Valley-based mobile-first learning company. Wizenoze were decommissioned from the CareerTech Challenge Fund part way through the process due to the significant impact of coronavirus on their delivery model.