We are living in an age of significant labour market transformation. The rise of automation and technological innovation means new career options and ways of working are emerging alongside the decline of certain industries and sectors. The COVID-19 crisis is a new and sudden shock that has exacerbated and sped up some of this trend, with the UK set for the sharpest rise in unemployment on record. With today’s working age population likely to have several jobs and careers throughout their working lives, careers advice and support to navigate a more complex job market is more important than ever.
The CareerTech Challenge Prize, launched by Nesta and DfE in 2019, aims to support the development of new solutions to help people find rewarding future careers. The prize has funded 20 innovators who are developing digital solutions that connect people with data-driven information, advice and guidance to help them navigate the labour market. Solutions are helping users identify their own skills, and the skills needed for a rapidly changing labour market, as well as identifying jobs available in local areas, and providing pathways to prepare for and secure new, future-proof roles.
Learning and Work Institute is conducting research with the prize finalists to explore the process of building these data-driven solutions. At this interim stage of the research, we wanted to share how the new solutions are being developed, alongside the key successes and challenges experienced by prize finalists so far. It’s hoped that wider learning generated from the prize can support decision-makers to build better and more effective data-driven solutions in the future.
All of the prize finalists are using data from multiple sources, including live jobs postings and educational and skills-based courses, alongside labour market data such as Office for National Statistics (ONS) labour market statistics, Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) course data, O*NET European Skills/Competences and qualification and Occupations (ESCO), to name a few.
By combining a range of different data sets, innovators are able to develop careers advice, skills matching and job search tools that are more tailored for those looking to retrain or change careers. For example, one prize finalist uses aggregated data and details about individuals to build job matches underpinned by individual interest and career ambitions. The resulting job options presented (powered by live vacancy data) not only match individual skills sets but, as far as possible, align with career ambitions and personal interests. People can then apply for roles directly through the tool, reducing the need for users to deviate away from the platform and streamline the search and application process.
Another prize finalist is building a solution focused on identifying where skills gaps in local labour markets exist. The tool then identifies and signposts users to online learning and educational courses that ‘match’ these gaps. It is hoped these ‘nudges’ will support people to build relevant skills in sectors and industries where local demand exists. Initial testing suggests this matching has been highly effective. Others are using data to create ‘skills libraries’ to support those looking for new employment to assess their current skills sets against a range of careers. The idea is to break down barriers around job titles and often impenetrable language used in job postings to support users to understand the skills profiles of a range of careers.
Solutions are also demonstrating how combining skills and labour market data and presenting them in accessible formats can offer high-quality solutions to support job matching. For example, the development of platforms that only surface the most relevant information based on user profiles, actively avoiding ‘data and information overload’ for the user that can be off-putting. This has offered careers advice and training providers a more responsive, manageable and personalised way of searching for opportunities for their clients. In some cases, this has begun to increase the efficiency of some providers who are able to use the tool to sift through a high volume of information quickly.
The CareerTech Challenge Prize has offered a unique and important opportunity for tech to support the skills and employment sector to navigate an increasingly complex labour market. However, this is only one piece of the puzzle. People in roles at risk of displacement have unique personal circumstances; many have worked in the same industries for decades, having had limited or no experience of retraining or changing careers. It is vital therefore that future solutions work in combination with human-based approaches that are focused on building confidence and skills to navigate the job market. There is no doubt though that tech offers an exciting opportunity to work alongside data-driven solutions that support people to truly envision their working futures.
On Tuesday 23 March 2021 we will be holding an event to unpack the ways in which innovation can help people to navigate the changing world of work. Based on learnings from CareerTech Challenge we’ll be showcasing our platforms and research, inviting experts to discuss key issues facing workers in the future, and announcing the winner and runner-up of the CareerTech Challenge Prize.
The Changing World of Work: How can technology prepare us for the future labour market?
Register for the event