One of the ways DAI tackles global challenges is by partnering with other innovators to invest in promising solutions. In joining forces with tech startups that align with our mission, we bring the power of technology and entrepreneurship to bear on global development challenges.

In 2016, for example, we supported four startups through our ‘Innovation into Action Challenge’, including education tech firm Laboratoria, renewable energy enterprise Solar Sister, and m-health platforms ClickMedix and ThinkMD. Earlier this year, we announced our investment in ClickMedix. We’ve also invested in Ghanaian startups that emerged from the Kosmos Innovation Center. Keeping with this tradition, DAI’s Center for Digital Acceleration is pleased to announce a new strategic partnership with our friends and colleagues at Skilllab.

Skilllab was founded in Amsterdam in 2018 by Managing Director Ulrich Scharf and aims to create a more personalized and data-driven approach to career development and job placement, especially for marginalized populations. Using tailored artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, it profiles the skills of marginalized people in the labor force and matches them to career and education opportunities that align with their abilities. Over the last year and a half, its efforts have focused on migrants and refugees in Europe partnering with local and national authorities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Greece and the United Kingdom, earning recognition as a best practice implementer of the European Skills, Competencies, and Qualifications framework (ESCO), but its technology is applicable in labor markets around the world.

The Global Challenge

Globalization, digitization, automation, climate change, and migration—all of these are long-term trends that directly affect labor markets struggling to cope with the breakneck pace of change. If education and labor markets don’t rapidly adapt, countless communities risk losing sustainable livelihoods. In particular, marginalized groups such as refugees, migrants, and internally displaced people face the biggest challenges:

  • Language barriers make it difficult to convey experience and skills.

  • Diversity of experiences can make it difficult for employers and career services to grasp a person’s skill set.

  • Labor market complexity makes it difficult to situate a person’s skill set into a specific market.

These challenges are hardly isolated to migrant jobseekers in Europe—we see them in places all over the world where DAI manages workforce development and economic growth projects.

The Solution

To help address the challenge faced by transient job-seekers, Skilllab has developed a mobile application that plays the role of a local career counselor. The app uses AI to perform a comprehensive skill and knowledge assessment of the user, based on a growing data model of more than 13,000 unique skills. In real time, the application automatically generates detailed skill profiles that match a user’s skill set to nearly 3,000 unique occupations, while also highlighting opportunities for ‘up-skilling.’ Already available in 27 languages, the mobile application can be used by job-seekers wherever they are, in their native languages and automatically generate professionally designed skill profiles in any of the available languages.

Skilllab Photo.jpegA Syrian user tests the mobile application and provides feedback to the Skilllab team.

Most importantly, the engaging app allows for this critical skills data to equip labor market actors—from employers to public services—with updated information needed to absorb, develop, and improve the skills of their labor force.

Its innovative technology and approach has earned the company international recognition; it was recently named a winner of the inaugural Google AI Impact Challenge for organizations using AI to address societal challenges. Skilllab has piloted its technology across cities working to integrate migrant labor in Europe and is looking to bring its approach to new geographies.

The CDA-Skilllab Partnership

Like most young relationships, the CDA-Skillab partnership is evolving, but our main focus will be to bring this capability to new clients and geographic settings, combining Skilllab’s product development skills with CDA’s experience working with local communities as well as policy makers in emerging digital markets around the world. In addition to pursuing these growth opportunities together, we’re also keen to combine our software and app-building chops to co-develop products and services that meet the needs of job-seekers in a fast-paced, global marketplace.