Saffron Interactive are passionate about developing learning which creates a sense of ownership over new behaviours, and new values for the learner. For the CareerTech Challenge, Saffron Interactive partnered with unionlearn, the learning and skills organisation of the TUC to create the career adaptability platform, Create Your Own Future. The platform was born out of a need to support lower-skilled workers in an increasingly changing and unpredictable employment landscape.
Even before COVID-19 became a common phrase, the world was facing a reskilling crisis due to the fourth industrial revolution. As furlough and quarantine entered the picture, many were confronted by the sense of a new insecurity in their work and felt ill-prepared if a career change became a necessity. Help was needed to ensure that people in vulnerable sectors could navigate these changes. There was the opportunity to show the value they could provide in new roles with the assistance of additional training.
Adult learning comes with barriers. Those that are most in need of support are often those that have the least access to training and technology. Even with basic digital skills, many will find self-paced learning difficult if they have not studied since leaving school. With support accessed remotely during COVID-19, it presented a further challenge.
How we designed the ‘Create Your Own Future’ platform
We used our expertise in learning design and applied it to this complex challenge. We started by laying out the requirements. The solution needed to:
Driven by these ambitious goals we designed Create Your Own Future: a flagship digital tool that revolutionises adult learning and careers guidance.
Led by innovation, and to bring personalised one-to-one support to every user, we introduced four AI-enabled videobots – mentors whose characteristics and situations closely mirrored those of our primary target audience. The learner’s mentor guides them through their personalised learning journey, including a transferable skills assessment, tailored career and training recommendations, and an action plan to set clear and achievable goals. It’s personalised careers support for those who need it, at scale.
The programme is accessible to all audiences: the videobots can recognise voice, video, and text; and the site design is suitable for those with learning difficulties or disabilities. More than 90% of the courses are accredited and provide one-to-one tutor support. The data capture continuously provides insights and enables us to predict when users require human assistance at the moment of need.
Challenges and successes
Unsurprisingly, the global pandemic was at the root of most challenges: Learning Centres, which provided face-to-face support, were closed; union learning representatives were furloughed; filming was carried out remotely as travel to studios was too risky. Whilst our risk analysis could mitigate all these factors, TUC unionlearn – our channel to learners – learned in October 2020 that funding had been completely withdrawn by the Department for Education, leading to their closure at the end of March 2021.
This meant that engagement from union learning representatives was unavailable and access to the audience vastly restricted. The closure was disappointing as well as personally difficult for what had become a true partnership between Saffron and unionlearn.
Nonetheless, Create Your Own Future has become an invaluable resource to hundreds of people. Combined, they’ve spent over 51,120 minutes creating personalised action plans, exploring course recommendations and working with the AI videobot to see how their specific skills match to a range of new careers. We’ve been a hit with our target market of mature learners, as over 40% of users are aged 46 and upwards. Users who previously found the job market intimidating have taken their first steps toward employment through Create Your Own Future. We worked closely with Unity Works, a specialist organisation supporting people with learning disabilities. We were able to help their users increase their confidence and see the range of careers available to them - one Unity Works user secured three job interviews after using the platform!
The future is brighter for the countless learners who have used Create Your Own Future, and it’s looking bright for the platform too. We’re working to continue refining the user experience based on the feedback we’ve had from learners, ensuring the support the platform offers is as beneficial as possible. Backend functionality is being further enhanced to allow ‘big data’ analysis and targeted human intervention to be put in place for learners both easily and effectively. We’re also in talks with a number of potential providers to create bespoke versions of the platform for specific cohorts of learners.