Understanding how best to support workers who are most at risk from changes to the labour market, to upskill and retrain is one of the key challenges of our time.
More than six million people in the UK are employed in occupations likely to change radically or disappear entirely by 2030. This trend has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with changes felt more acutely by those already in low paid, insecure work and disproportionately affecting women and people from black and minority ethnic groups.
Without urgent action we risk widening existing inequalities and people being trapped in insecure, low paid employment or forced out of work altogether.
By backing digital innovations that either support workers to learn new skills or provide careers’ guidance, we aimed to learn more about what’s effective in online adult learning and how labour market information (LMI) could be used in innovative ways.
We identified four keys themes to our work:
- Interventions that support career adaptability skills including building confidence
- Effective tools/nudges for improving learner motivation
- Innovative uses of LMI
- Contribute to building an evidence base on adult learning and encourage greater testing and experimentation
As a result of the programme, we aimed to see working adults be able to successfully transition into jobs that make the most of their skills and potential.
We supported 20 innovators as they developed ways to provide information, advice and guidance on career transitions to adults. Each innovator was awarded a grant of £50,000 and a tailored package of support, and nine months to develop and test their solutions. In March 2021 a winner, Bob, an automated online coach and runner-up, Would You Rather Be, an AI-power app to help people find career happiness, were selected to receive prizes of £120,000 and £80,000 respectively.
Find out more about our 20 innovators
We also supported 11 innovators to test and experiment with effective online learning to upskill or retrain precarious workers. Each innovator was given a grant of up to £250,000, a tailored package of support and evaluation, and supported by the Learning & Work Institute to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of their interventions. Delivery finished in July 2021.
Find out more about our 11 innovators
To contribute to solving the challenge of missing labour market information, we are creating an Open Jobs Observatory. The Observatory will contain free insights from online job adverts, with a focus on the skills requested by employers. The team is collecting the adverts with the permission of job sites. A pilot version of the Observatory will be launched this autumn.
A central question that drove the CareerTech Challenge was ‘How can great careers support be delivered at a scale that has a real impact on the labour market?’ Of the 31 innovators supported, 20 worked on building and testing new tools to make careers information, advice and guidance more accessible and tailored to the supply and demand for skills in local job markets.
Their progress was documented and analysed through interviews by our evaluation partners, Learning and Work Institute. This provided Nesta with a unique opportunity to understand the enablers and barriers for the development of ‘great careers support’. The research revealed an abundance of creativity among the innovators, and demonstrated the value of user testing, co-creation and partnerships with local stakeholders, such as FE colleges and employers. Yet it also uncovered a major challenge that is holding back innovation in the field - limited and inaccessible labour market data.
The full report and recommendations for how to address the issue of hidden and missing data to unleash the potential of better skills matching can be found here and below in the ‘our research’ section.
A key aim of the CareerTech Challenge was to build the evidence base on ‘what works’ to support adults to engage in online learning and build skills for future labour markets. Innovators were required, with support, to design and deliver an evaluation of their intervention. Learning and Work Institute (L&W) was commissioned by Nesta to act as the evaluation partner for the programme, supporting 11 innovators to design and deliver a process and outcome evaluation of their intervention. Evidence presented in each innovator report was then drawn together to identify the key themes.
Across the range of platforms, despite the challenges of the pandemic, the innovators were able to engage with over 10,000 learners in the 12 months that the evaluation took place. Those innovators who implemented a range of recruitment approaches and monitored these closely were more successful in recruiting target groups and achieving a good number of learners.
Qualitative evidence from project-level evaluations identify a positive effect on learner motivation. For example, participating in a programme relevant to their employment goals supported extrinsic motivations such as aiming to progress in employment, gain a job or change career. Specific features of interventions were found to directly impact these motivations, such as accreditation by recognised industry partners and the relevance of the course to the changing employment landscape. Intrinsic motivations were also increased by learners’ enjoyment of learning, and the opportunity to do something ‘normal’ and constructive during the challenges of the pandemic; many learners reported an increased desire to learn in the future after participating in interventions.
The full report and three detailed case studies can be found here and below in the ‘our research’ section.
As Nesta’s focused work on the future of work and skills comes to an end, we will be continuing to develop our understanding of the place for innovation in this area through our A Sustainable Future mission. The mission team is currently exploring how to increase levels of productivity in the UK and help job seekers transition into sustainable jobs.