SkillLab: Helping the most vulnerable job seekers find pathways into better employment avenues

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the world around us is rapidly changing. The restrictions of lockdown forced businesses to temporarily close and trading to pause. This has meant that the number of vulnerable jobseekers has risen, and people now need help to navigate a job market affected by both a health and economic crisis.

One company well-placed to offer that support is social business, SkillLab: a business focused on helping the most vulnerable job seekers find pathways into better employment avenues. Their AI-based technology offers personalised career advice to marginalised jobseekers, and they were able to further develop after receiving funding in the Google AI Impact Challenge.

The work SkillLab does is more relevant than ever. We had a chance to find out more about SkillLab’s recent work, and how they are adapting to a ‘new’ normal.

Where and how did SkillLab start and what is your overall goal?

SkillLab emerged as the combination of working on a data problem and reframing the European migration wave as an opportunity. We worked on prototypes connecting people, work and education on the level of skills, and on how to empower refugees to find their place in the EU labour market.

Together, we began building an AI-based solution to capture and document the skills of refugees in Europe that spoke directly to the challenges they faced when marketing their abilities. Being selected as a grantee of the Google AI Impact Challenge was a key moment in our journey, as Google’s resources and support helped us to push the technological solution to a completely new level.

Our goal is to help millions of marginalised job seekers, by enabling them to effectively capture, document, and express their skills and abilities thereby facilitating improved, more personalised career support.

How can education and upskilling play a part in helping job seekers find employment?

It’s a necessity to adapt to the rapidly evolving day-to-day demand of jobs. The good news is: over the last decade, we have seen an explosion of available online education offerings.

As our technology connects people, work and education on the level of skills, we are able to show job seekers their exact skill gap to every occupation. Filling those gaps with the available educational content out there is just the next step.

The population of vulnerable people seeking employment has increased as a result of the COVID-19 crisis - how have you adapted your work to address that?

SkillLab has always been completely focused on empowering job seekers that need support. What has changed is the number of individuals that need that support.

We have doubled down on our mission but adapt by being more active in the wider dialogue around the crisis response. A good example is our participation in the EU vs. Virus Hackathon: a pan-European hackathon, organised by the EU commission, with a goal of highlighting and developing appropriate tools for crisis response.

Leveraging our technology, we created a data-driven tool to show skill-based pathways from professions in danger to those in need, which has been selected as a highlighted solution.

In a time where the availability of career support is more critical than ever, can you tell us more about how you are building/scaling the work you do?

Our clients and partners are public, private as well as non-profit employment services. These organisations use our tool to empower job seekers and enable their career counsellors to provide better services at scale. Together we continuously improve our technology with the end goal to serve millions.

Additionally, we are increasingly partnering with education providers to integrate their content into our tool.

How is technology enabling you to reach the hundreds of millions of people that need help?

The expensive part of identifying a job seeker’s skillset is the many hours of expert-led interviews. Our data model contains 13,485 skills and covers around 3,000 occupations. It requires a lot of training to enable a human being to know all of this by heart. Add translation fees and other organisational costs and you arrive at an unscalable cost structure.

Our AI-based assessment engine is able to run these interviews in 27 languages, while being extremely scalable. Its ability to learn and fluently adapt to changing labour markets enables us to bring our service to people everywhere, at an economically feasible cost point.

What’s next for SkillLab?

2020 is a truly exciting year for us. We officially launched our tool with many organisations and are getting ready to scale. For this purpose, we are seeking funding and more partnerships. Please reach out to us if you want to be part of this journey.

Our AI-based assessment engine has the ability to learn and fluently adapt to changing labour markets, enabling us to bring our service to people everywhere, at an economically feasible cost point.

Ulrich Scharf, Managing Director & Founder, SkillLab




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