£5.75m programme to invest in digital innovations that will equip adults for the jobs of the future

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Nesta and the Department for Education (DfE) have launched the £5.75 million CareerTech Challenge, calling for cutting edge innovations that will equip adults across England with the right tools and skills to find rewarding future employment.

With one fifth of UK workers currently in occupations that will be affected by automation over the next 10 to 15 years, the Challenge is calling for innovators, entrepreneurs and technologists to come forward with products and services to equip people for their future work. From up to date online information on the skills employers will be asking for, to virtual reality experiences which help people to envisage their future careers, tech tools could change the way people prepare for their future.

Digital technology has the potential to radically improve people’s access to the tailored advice, guidance and support they need to thrive in the changing world of work. Equipped with knowledge of the jobs and skills likely to be in demand; and the confidence and support needed to pursue them, people can plan for secure and rewarding future careers. A confident and adaptable workforce will also help to meet the needs of businesses for a multi-skilled workforce in the future.

The CareerTech Challenge, formerly the Adult Learning Technology Innovation Fund, is seeking solutions to help people working in England aged 24 to 65, without a degree and earning less than £35,000 per year. The sectors expected to particularly change as a result of automation include retail and manufacturing.

The CareerTech Challenge consists of two parts:

–          the CareerTech Challenge Prize, to find digital solutions that use labour market information to make high-quality, future-focused information, advice and guidance more accessible. 20 finalists will receive £50,000 each as well as expert support to help them further develop their solutions. In March 2021, the winner will be awarded £120,000 with one runner-up receiving £80,000.

–          the CareerTech Challenge Fund to source innovative tech solutions which support people to build motivation to learn and develop new skills online. Existing online learning generally has low completion rates, so Nesta is calling for tech solutions which successfully engage people and build their employability skills and confidence for transitioning into new job roles. Nesta will provide grants of between £100,000 to £250,000 for successful applicants, alongside tailored support to help refine and test their tech.  

Vicki Sellick, Nesta’s executive director of programmes, said: “As the world of work transforms, it is crucial that people feel confident in understanding what jobs will be available in the future in their local area and how to learn the skills to secure them.

“Technology offers a variety of exciting ways to equip people with the knowledge and tools to plan for secure and rewarding careers and improve working lives for people across England.”

The CareerTech Challenge will support the development of the government’s National Retraining Scheme, and launches on the same day that the DfE announces the roll-out of the first part of the scheme, Get Help to Retrain, to three further areas. The National Retraining Scheme will help prepare adults for the future changes to the economy, including those brought about by automation, and help them retrain into better jobs. The National Retraining Scheme is being developed and rolled out in stages, with a series of unique products being built and tested in parallel. Each part of the scheme is rigorously tested with real people, ensuring that the service works for the people who need it. The complete National Retraining Scheme service will be available for eligible adults in 2022.

Education Minister, Michelle Donelan, added: “The CareerTech Challenge is a fantastic opportunity for innovators looking to put their ideas into action on a national scale.

“Everyone deserves access to high-quality teaching and, thanks to new technologies such as automation and Artificial Intelligence, there is potential to drastically improve the quality of online learning for adult students.

“Investing in cutting edge technologies demonstrates our ongoing commitment to adult education and we hope it will encourage more adults to retrain and upskill in future.”

The Prize is now open for entries via this link: careertechprize.challenges.org, and the Fund is open here: https://www.nesta.org.uk/project/careertech-challenge

Applications for the Fund close on 9 December 2019 and entries for the Prize close on 29 January 2020.