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.

CareerTech Challenge: Monthnotes

CareerTech Challenge funded bold innovations to improve people’s working lives and unlock employment opportunities for the future. The programme is now closed but you can read all about the work we did below including the latest stories and learning from the innovators we supported.


That’s a wrap!

This month, we have completed all our work on the CareerTech Challenge and the programme is now closed. It’s been a fascinating journey, working throughout a pandemic to enable a brilliant group of innovators to develop solutions that best support workers who are most at risk from changes to the labour market.

Alongside our learning partners Learning and Work Institute, we have now published the programme evaluation report to highlight what works for adult online learning. The report includes 6 recommendations, ranging from having a clear line of sight to employment opportunities for the learner, to engaging learners through their preferences and bite-sized modular learning.

Alongside the main evaluation report, we have also published a series of case studies that highlight the diverse approaches taken by three innovators and the experiences of the learners they support. These include:

  • Game Academy who utlised the evaluation process to evidence the transferable skills of gamers.
  • Citizen Literacy CIC who focused on a user centred model of evaluation to measure the impact of their Citizen Literacy Taster app.
  • CENTURY who used a data led approach to evaluation to capture the experience of learners on their personalised platform.

We’ve also been sharing the findings from our work with partners at the Department for Education who are continuing the great work with the National Skills Fund that aims to help adults to train and gain the valuable skills they need .

You can see all the final reporting and other content here, this includes the final three innovators blogs.

  • Agent Academy reflect on the development of Leap, their platform that supports budding marketeers to move into a new career.
  • My Kinda Future share their experience of creating Career Elevate, a digital training programme for people whose jobs are at risk from automation.
  • Digital Mums discuss their work to support mums to develop the digital skills needed to find flexible and rewarding employment.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to support workers to navigate the future labour market then please also explore Nesta’s recent reports from the Future Fit and Mapping Career Causeway projects.


This month, as we continue to wrap up the CareerTech Challenge, we have been spending lots of time supporting innovators and working with our evaluation partners Learning and Work Institute to bring together the insights and learning across the past 18 months.

We have published two more innovators blogs.

  • Open University shares its experience of developing the GICAST course to enable precarious learners to begin to develop the skills needed for a career in cyber security
  • Sopra Steria reflects on the successes and challenges of its platform Digilearn, developed in partnership with ELATT

We have also published a new report focused on the hidden data that could boost the UK’s productivity and job market. Written by Learning and Work Institute, the report highlights the experiences of 20 of the innovators from the CareerTech Challenge who focused on building and testing new tools to make careers information, advice and guidance more accessible.

Funding opportunity:

A new fund from Ufi VocTech Trust, is focused on how VocTech, digital tools for vocational learning, can solve real, practical problems for those who face the greatest barriers to vocational training and employment.

Applications will close on 29 July 2021, 17:00.


The Festival of Learning takes place next week and is the biggest celebration of lifelong learning in England. Their mission is to highlight the benefits of learning, celebrate achievements of adults who have used learning to transform their lives, and to encourage everyone to embrace lifelong learning.

The awards ceremony is on Tuesday 6 July at 18:00. You can sign up here.


This month, as we begin to wrap up the CareerTech Challenge, we have been spending lots of time supporting innovators to bring together their insights and learning across the past 18 months.

We have published two more innovators blogs.

  • Saffron Interactive shares its experience of developing the Create Your Own Future platform
  • CENTURY explores how it adapted its AI driven platform to pivot to engage a new set of learners.

As many of you will know, 17—23 May was Learning at Work Week. In this blog we look at what employers can do to encourage a culture of lifelong learning and how some of the CareerTech Challenge platforms can help.

In the next few weeks there are some great events coming up that focus on supporting workers to navigate the changing labour market.

  • On 8 June our friends at Resolution Foundation are hosting an event focused on how workertech can help build a better post-Covid future for workers. You can find out more and register here.
  • On 16 June, our colleagues in the Future Fit team are hosting an event entitled Becoming FutureFit, how can we empower workers with the skills they need for tomorrow? You can find out more and register here.


With the announcement of our winner and runner-up, the CareerTech Challenge Prize has now wrapped, and you can find all the info about it here.

In the coming months we will be publishing a range of outputs that reflect what has been achieved across the CareerTech Challenge programme. This will include:

  • A series of blogs from each of our Fund innovators that highlight their experiences across the last 12 months. The first three have recently been published for City of Glasgow College, Game Academy and Coventry University.
  • A collection of insights and findings on working with labour market data including some research that the Learning & Work Institute have undertaken with the CareerTech Prize finalists. This will be published at the end of June.
  • The final evaluation report for the CareerTech Challenge, including a series of in depth innovator case studies. This will be published at the end of July.

You may also be interested in the Tools for a Rapid Recovery event on Thursday 13 May. This event will explore how well-placed innovative tools and services can impact the lives of individuals who have had their jobs and money affected by COVID-19. Bringing together thought leaders and frontline workers with innovators and entrepreneurs to discuss the issues thrown up by the pandemic around access to jobs and money. They will also offer some very practical and tangible methods, ideas and tools to tackle the very real issues encountered by so many across the UK - accessing jobs and money.

Event: Tools for a Rapid Recovery

Find out more about this event and register to attend here.

Rapid Recovery illustration 1


It’s been a busy month for the CareerTech Challenge with the prize winner and runner up announced, our programme showcase, and the publication of some brilliant tools. With the Prize coming to a close, we'll now be focusing on the ongoing evaluation of Fund innovators, and completing our research with Prize finalists - watch this space for future updates. In the meantime, here are our highlights from March:

  • On 23 March we hosted a virtual event, the Changing World of Work, where we explored how technology can help people to navigate the future labour market. With a total of 21 speakers across seven sessions, and 28 exhibition booths showcasing CareerTech Challenge innovations, we were able to tackle the big questions about the future of work. Check out the session recordings.
  • We made the most of our 200+ audience from 24 different countries to announce the winner and runner up of the CareerTech Challenge Prize, Bob UK and Would You Rather Be respectively. Congratulations to both innovators and the whole cohort!
  • Earlier in the month we published two brand new tools:
    1. Understanding the Difference You Make - designed in partnership with Learning and Work Institute, this evaluation toolkit is designed to support delivery organisations, developers and providers to consider the best ways to evaluate online learning interventions designed to support adults to build skills that support their careers.
    2. CareerTech Challenge Stories - Through exploring the stories of three characters, we show how CareerTech Challenge innovations can provide practical, personalised and timely support to precarious workers.


  • We’re counting down the days to our event The Changing World of Work: How can technology help us navigate the future labour market? Confirmed speakers include employment and skills expert Tracy Fishwick OBE, Dr Fiona Aldridge from Learning and Work Institute, and data.org’s Danil Mikhailov.

The Changing World of Work

Join us on 23 March for this interactive half-day to unpack the ways in which innovation can help people to navigate the changing world of work.


  • Our Prize judging panel is busy assessing finalists’ submissions. Finalists have compiled details of their product development and testing, and produced pitch videos to make a bid for the winning prize of £120,000.
  • In a couple of weeks time we’ll be publishing an evaluation toolkit in partnership with Learning and Work Institute. This digital toolkit will support organisations to test and evaluate online adult learning through a collection of case studies, checklists, templates and question banks. Watch this space!
  • The Prize team and Learning and Work Institute published a brilliant thought piece reflecting on the successes and challenges of using digital methods and labour market data to provide careers advice and guidance.
  • We’ve been leafing through the Skills for Jobs White Paper and attended the All Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Education roundtable discussions, which covered supporting the most disadvantaged individuals to access learning and career opportunities, and how to support the 9 out of 10 employees in today's workplace who will require reskilling by 2030.
  • For those of us keen to get a deep dive into the data science behind some careers advice innovations, Nesta’s Head of Data Discovery, Dr Cath Sleeman, has authored a blog on how machine learning can bolster careers advice - a great piece on the essential features of AI for careers guidance.
  • As we enter into the final few months of the programme, we’re thrilled to have been able to engage over 1000 learners across our funded platforms and are underway reviewing and evaluating our innovations. We’re thinking about how we can best share these insights. We’d love to hear your suggestions of how we can do this!


  • The new year and third lockdown has brought some new challenges to our programme of work: How do we engage learners and users who are having to look after their children full time? What impact does the extended furlough scheme have on career transitions? What might the future of upskilling and retraining look like in a post-pandemic economy?
  • Alongside trying to tackle these issues, we are working with What Works UnitLearning and Work Institute and design agency Storythings to publish a digital evaluation toolkit for innovators and learning providers testing and developing new ideas in the online adult learning space. It will provide practical guidance and adaptable tools so that our evidence base can be built upon in the future.
  • CareerTech Challenge prize finalists have completed their final submissions and our judging panel are excited to get stuck in reading about the progress of the platforms that they chose this time last year, and seeing these innovations come to life.
  • We welcome the release of the Skills for Jobs White Paper from the Department for Education, which shines a light on the under-represented further education and technical education sector. While the recommendations are in consultation, and subject to approval by Parliament, the focus on flexible, modular delivery with clear progression routes for learning and employment outcomes presents exciting crossovers with the CareerTech Challenge.
  • We’ve also been exploring the recently published Mapping Career Causeways algorithm. This pioneering body of work recommends career transitions for at-risk roles according to work-based skills and activities - have a go yourself!


  • As we come to the end of the year, it’s proving difficult to write something that encapsulates the past 12 months. We’ve undergone speedy digital transformation, worked with - not against - employers facing difficult decisions about redundancy, and above all put our beneficiaries at the heart for what we are trying to achieve. We’ll continue to do this into the next year as we figure out what’s worked and what hasn’t, speak more publicly about our work, and celebrate the success of all our innovators.
  • In other news, CareerEar have been doing a series of free online interviews with key figures on skills development and careers advice called the Skills Series, you can check out the latest one here! Claudine Adeyemi also contributed to Channel 5's special report on access to finance for black people as consumers and as business owners.
  • Our innovators have provided some timely optimism while blogging this month. Stay Nimble registered their 6000th member this month. You can read about the journey of Tahmoor, one of those members, and how Stay Nimble helped him get his first job in the UK in this blog. We also love Lucy Griffiths’ (CEO of SortYourFuture.com) blog on what they’ve learned about the hopes, values and aspirations of workers during the pandemic.
  • We are excited to have partnered with GMB Union to give union members special access to five of our eLearning platforms.
  • And finally, we were delighted to be able to attend the first meeting for the re-instated APPG for the Future of Work. It was great to hear Saadia Zahidi from the World Economic Forum call for more online learning opportunities, and funding for local or community support to help people get into better work.

November 2020

  • One of the main focuses for our team this month has been getting our learning platforms to people who need them. Have a read of our blog on how to participate, and share far and wide!
  • Earlier in November we attended lots of virtual workshops for Lifelong Learning Week. Our evaluation partners, Learning and Work Institute kicked off the week presenting research on adult learning in lockdown:
Learning through lockdown
  • This month we’re also beginning to look ahead to March 2021 and think about how we might celebrate our innovators and share everything that we’ve learnt. As we can’t bring everyone together in person, we’re brainstorming how to discuss, debate and disseminate virtually. Suggestions welcome!
  • The prize finalist behind CiCi, the career advice chatbot, have integrated the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s course directory into the LMI for All open API - meaning developers can now integrate course searches into their website and applications.
  • In great news for the data fan club among our innovators, Rhys has set up a partnership with Adzuna, the job search site. Adzuna is sharing a historical job ad dataset with our cohort to allow innovators to test their platforms with real data.
  • We’ve also been inspired by the Festival of Learning’s adult learning award winners. Stories like these remind us why our work is so important and make us focus on the people we are supporting, not just the platforms.

"Award winners highlight the vast array of people who gain so much from learning as adults. Their stories truly inspire all of us."

Festival of Learning 2020

October 2020

  • In our user engagement strategies workshop earlier this month Nassin quizzed experts from Prize finalists, CareerChat and FutureFitAi. We explored the effectiveness of user agency when designing UI, the importance of weak ties when reaching out to potential B2B or B2G customers, and the significance of highly personalised and localised information being available to users.
Webinar screenshot
  • Leap and Citizen Literacy entered Beta testing, while Career Skills for the 2020s started the pilot course and Game Academy delivered a bootcamp for 100 learners.
  • Liz gave a keynote about CareerTech Challenge at a TUC event to over 100 people about learning in the digital age and the skills needed for the future of work.
  • Co-Founder of Digital Mums (fund innovator), Kathryn Tyler, interviewed Future Skills Bootcamp graduate, Lizzie, to an audience of 620 people on Facebook Live. While Lizzie was on furlough she took the course and built confidence in digital and workplace skills. Another course graduate, Dana, also tells her story of how the course helped her in overcoming nerves to become a lifelong learner.

Posted by Digital Mums on Thursday, October 1, 2020
  • DMH Associates (prize finalist) hosted their virtual ‘Evolving Education & Careers’ conference, with a packed agenda exploring career learning, the need for digital transformation (including a showcase of their chatbot, CiCi) and an exploration of the importance of achieving diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
  • Reading RSA’s recent report Work and automation in the time of Covid-19 really brought home the colossal impact that both automation and the pandemic will have on the future workforce. Their policy calls for targeted support, transition services, and upskilling mirroring our own manifesto for the future of work, Precarious to Prepared.


Nassin Watson

Nassin Watson

Nassin Watson

Programme Manager, Challenge Works


Nassin is a programme manager at Challenge Works, working on the Sustainable Cities Challenge.

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Liz North

Liz North

Liz North

Programme Manager

Liz was the Programme Manager for the CareerTech Challenge Fund.

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Emma Selinger

Emma Selinger

Emma Selinger

Assistant Programme Manager

Emma was an Assistant Programme Manager for the CareerTech Challenge.

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Sarah Mcloughlin

Sarah Mcloughlin

Sarah Mcloughlin

Senior Programme Manager

Sarah was a Senior Programme Manager.

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Amy Solder

Amy Solder

Amy Solder

Deputy Chief Central Programmes Officer

Amy was the deputy chief programmes officer at Nesta, supporting the work of its three missions.

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Rhys Herriott

Rhys Herriott

Rhys Herriott

Programme Manager, Challenge Works

Rhys is a programme manager at Challenge Works and is currently overseeing communications and engagement for the Ofwat Innovation Fund.

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Jack Orlik

Jack Orlik

Jack Orlik

Programme Manager - Open Jobs, Data Analytics Practice

Jack was a Programme Manager for Open Jobs.

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