Bob, an open-source technology offering advice to workers and jobseekers, has won a prestigious prize and funding.
The AI-powered ‘job coach’, developed by non-profit Bayes Impact and tested with community organisation ACH, provides tailored, practical and motivating advice.
Acting as an impartial job counsellor, Bob helps users understand how their skills and job application techniques fit with those required by employers, giving them clear steps to secure relevant roles.
Jobseekers can then receive ongoing digital coaching via email, text, and an app that delivers personalised motivational support, helping its users to feel continuously supported.
Bob has been awarded £120,000 is the winner of the CareerTech Challenge Prize, part of an £5.75 million initiative by Nesta and the Department for Education to scale up tech solutions that can benefit workers around the country.
Internationally, Bob has already successfully coached over 250,000 people, with 80% of its users reporting that Bob’s advice is equally or more personalised compared to in-person coaching and 41% reporting that Bob’s coaching was a key factor in finding a job.
As part of Bob’s development, Bayes Impact worked with an expert in cognitive psychology to understand how to encourage people to turn information into action, and with career advisors from their partner, ACH.
Bob is designed to be adaptable to different areas, incorporating local data and resources for diverse audiences, with a focus on meeting the needs of people who often miss out on career support – including refugees.
The CareerTech Challenge was launched in October 2019 to nurture promising tech solutions to support working adults in England most at risk of rapid labour market change – specifically people without a degree, and working in sectors expected to change substantially due to automation, including retail, manufacturing, and transport.
As a result of the pandemic, it was expanded to support those on furlough.
While the CareerTechChallenge launched before the pandemic, the impacts of COVID-19 have increased the urgency of helping people to find secure employment. Today marks one year since the first UK lockdown was announced, and UK unemployment recently hit a five-year high of 5.1%.
Tris Dyson, Managing Director at Nesta Challenges said: “We’re hugely excited by Bob’s potential to get highly relevant employment support to adults across England.
“This pioneering platform is bringing tailored, engaging career support tools to the people that need it most, ensuring that nobody misses out.
“Even before the major employment concerns caused by the pandemic, automation was transforming the skills required for a whole range of jobs. Faced with this challenging employment landscape, it’s critical that workers and job seekers have access to the information and tools they need to succeed – helping ensure they feel well prepared for their future employment.
“While our judges were hugely impressed by all the innovations put forwards, Bob’s accessibility really stood out, and we’re confident that a diverse range of people will benefit from using it to find rewarding work.”
Bob has been brought to the UK by two non-profit organisations – Bayes Impact, which uses technology to tackle social issues, and ACH, a social enterprise providing integration and employment support to refugees in Bristol, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry.
Bayes Impact partnered with ACH to help bring Bob to the UK market after initial success delivering the innovation in France.
The CareerTech Challenge judges also highlighted the importance of Bob being an open source platform, which means that its source code is publicly available to use, modify, and redistribute – which will help accelerate wider innovation and impact in the careers advice sector.
Paul Duan, co-founder of Bayes Impact, said: “Bob helps to ensure no one is left behind as the job market goes through significant shifts, and that everyone has access to impartial, data-driven careers advice.
“We’re thrilled to secure this backing to help us reach even more people, and we look forward to supporting many more jobseekers around England into fulfilling work.
“By harnessing the power of AI to analyse the UK labour market, our technology identifies career and skills trends to provide tailored advice that ultimately helps people into well-paid employment.”
Since April last year, 20 shortlisted solutions for the CareerTech Challenge have received expert guidance and £50,000 each to develop and test their tech concepts.
The CareerTech Challenge Prize’s runner-up was also named today as Would You Rather Be, an AI-powered career app to help people find career happiness – which has been awarded £80,000 to further increase its reach and impact.
Users answer 10 minutes of quick-fire questions and the platform calculates the careers they’d thrive in, and generates hyper-personalised pathways into each with to-do lists including time, cost and available funding.
Since the start of the prize, the app has had over 40,000 users, with 82% of people rating their experience 4 or 5 out of 5 stars, and 84% saying it helped them discover or get into a career they would enjoy.
Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, said: “The fantastic innovations from the CareerTech Challenge have already started helping adults across the country gain the skills and support they need to find sustainable work.
“This investment has unlocked cutting-edge technologies which are now more relevant than ever, given the changing job landscape.
“I’d like to congratulate the creators of the artificial intelligence platform Bob and thank all the participants for developing these bold new solutions to improve people’s lives and unlock new job opportunities.”
Anyone wanting to explore their career options for free can access Would You Rather Be via their website. The team are also currently looking to work with employers, recruiters and training providers, as well as across the education sector.
Organisations with information or services they’d like recommended by Bob can contact Bob’s content team at [email protected], or read more about the technology on Bayes Impact’s website.
More information on all 20 innovations supported through the CareerTech Challenge Prize are available on the programme’s website.