Agent Academy CIC is among a host of companies shortlisted for the Nesta CareerTech Challenge.

Research by Nesta suggests that more than six million people in the UK are currently employed in occupations that are likely to radically change or entirely disappear by 2030 due to automation, population aging, urbanisation and the rise of the green economy.

It has also been found that the coronavirus crisis has intensified the importance of this problem. Recent warnings suggest that a prolonged lockdown could result in 6.5 million people losing their jobs. Of these workers, nearly 80% do not have a university degree.

Agent Academy delivers industry-designed learning programmes for young people, aged between 18 and 25, who find themselves, post-further/higher education, without the skills to begin their careers in the digital, creative or tech industry.

The North West-based EdTech has been awarded £150,000 by the innovation foundation and the Department for Education to expand its existing offer nationally, supporting those whose jobs are at risk across the UK through innovative online platform Switch.

Zoe Wallace, director of Agent Academy, said: “Over the past six years Agent Academy’s various programmes have served hundreds of learners to gain the skills and experience to move into the digital sector, generating over £2.7 million in annual salaries; it is individually empowering and transformational for the industry. Now, we are creating a platform to achieve these outcomes at scale.

“We want this to be the platform of choice nationally, for learners to get the skills and support needed to make the switch from an at-risk career into a digital and creative career.”

The £5.75 million CareerTech Challenge consists of two parts: a Prize to scale up digital concepts that make information, advice and guidance more accessible, and a Fund to develop innovative online learning solutions which build people’s motivation to learn and develop new skills.

Nesta will provide expert support and mentoring to help refine and develop the solutions over the next 11 months, and the aim is for people to start benefiting from the solutions as soon as autumn 2020.

20 Prize finalists will receive £50,000 each to help scale their concepts, while 11 Fund finalists will access grants of up to £250,000. A £120,000 cash prize will be awarded to the winning Prize entrant in March 2021.

The innovations include an initiative from Game Academy, which will help video gamers to acquire new transferrable employment skills through game play, including complex problem solving, decision-making and leadership. With every second person in the UK playing video games, Game Academy has the potential to make a major difference to the Challenge’s relevant demographic.

Digital Mums, which aims to support women to become lifelong learners by supporting flexible careers, is also included. With research showing that mothers are far more likely to be in at-risk low-skilled, low-paid part-time roles, Digital Mums’ technology will be used to deliver project based learning and peer support for their growing community, ultimately helping to reduce maternal unemployment.

CareerEar’s platform, which will connect job seekers with industry professionals for mentoring and careers advice, is another finalist. The service will provide visual maps of users’ industries and job functions to help them understand how their skills could be transferred, and include a live chat function to help assess people’s skills.

Also included is Citizen Literacy Taster, an app that provides personalised support and encouragement for adult learners taking their first steps in learning to read and write, providing a bridge for developing confidence in learners to move on to further learning opportunities.

Wordnerds' platform, which will bridge the miscommunication between employers and employees, is also shortlisted. It will analyse the language used to describe soft skills in job adverts and descriptions, and align it with the language that people in the target group are likely to be using about themselves.

Ksenia Zhoultoukhova, Nesta’s Executive Director of People and Performance said: “We want to ensure that more people feel confident in understanding what jobs will be available in the future and how to learn the skills to secure them. Technology has a crucial role to play in this, and we look forward to working closely with the innovators to help them put their ideas into action on an even greater scale.”

“With employment concerns across England exacerbated by the current health crisis, it is even more important to equip people with the tools to plan for secure future careers. By connecting people with the information they need to navigate a rapidly changing job market, we can empower people to find good-quality, meaningful work.”