News / Tech

Bristol firm uses power of AI to improve access to employment

By ellie pipe, Tuesday May 5, 2020

A collaboration between a refugee integration services provider and an innovative tech firm is set to be the catalyst for a step change in access to employment.

ACH has been named as one of the 20 finalists in the CareerTech Challenge after submitting the idea of Bob, an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven careers advice platform, in the prestigious national contest.

The social enterprise, which has offices on Ashley Road and Eastgate Road, has partnered with tech company Bayes Impact on the project, which has now been awarded £50,000 to cover development and testing over the next few months.

Support
independent journalism

Bristol24/7 relies on your support to remain independent. If you like what we do and you want us to keep reporting, become a member for just £45 for the year

Join now

By leveraging ACH’s expertise in providing in-person career advice and training, tech entrepreneurs will adapt Bob to the UK labour market, prototyping within an established careers provision.

“This is a great opportunity to bring the future of work into the way we work today,” says ACH deputy CEO Richard Thickpenny.

“It provides a catalyst for a step change in the way we link guidance to well-paid employment, provides a direct link with our digital training provision and creates an opportunity to innovate with an inspirational partner.”

Over the past 11 years of working with marginalised groups, ACH has identified skills training for entry level jobs as the most fundamental factor individuals need in order to attain careers requiring digital skills.

The company says that while skills training may be viewed as ‘widely available’, in practice it is not accessible to people without significant social capital, and many habitually miss out on opportunities.

Bob UK will aim to offer an agile local career service with the scale of a government organisation, strong tech expertise, and sector-specific knowledge in the field of employment.

It provides guidance, making it easy for people from all backgrounds to access information. Without overwhelming people with data, Bob identifies the main barriers to employment, proposing a phased, progressive strategy.

As part of the CareerTech Challenge Prize, finalists will receive support and coaching, as well as networking opportunities with other innovators.

The initiative is backed by Nesta research, which estimates around 6 million people’s jobs will be affected by 2030, through radical changes to their job descriptions or job losses as a result of urbanisation, an ageing population, automation and the rise of green economy.

The solutions being funded through the CareerTech Challenge are designed to support people who will be hit the hardest by an insecure job market over the coming months and years.

Main photo of Richard Thickpenny, courtesy of ACH

Read more: Bristol’s pioneering asylum seeker employment project

Related articles