Emerging Technologies

Finland is building a robot that could help you get a job

Staff work behind a robot at iCarbonX, a start up company focusing on combining genomics with other health factors to create a digitalized form of life, in Shenzhen, China May 25, 2018.   REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Algorithms will predict when your working skills will become outdated. Image: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Josh Lowe
Deputy Editor , Apolitical
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Talk of robots in the labour market usually focuses on their job-destroying capabilities (or lack of them). But in Finland, the government is building a bot that could not only help you get a new job, but also warn you if your current role is destined for oblivion.

Olli-Pekka Heinonen, director general of Finland’s National Agency for Education, told Apolitical that his government is preparing to pilot a new tool aimed at keeping citizens in work during periods of labour market turmoil. It will use an algorithm to predict when users’ skills are likely to become outdated, and suggest routes to more sustainable employment.

If it works, the tool could help shore up the future of Finland’s 2.5million workers. The OECD warned in a recent report that 14% of developed-world jobs were at high risk of automation, with another 32% set for significant change. As technological change and globalisation continue to reshape the world of work, the platform could help countries manage unpredictable transitions without seeing workers fall into unemployment.

Automation looks set to significantly affect the world of work. Image: OECD

This skills service will ultimately form just one part of a wider project, named Aurora, an online platform which will connect up digital services run by the private and public sectors.
Citizens will eventually be able to ask for solutions to their problems in a range of life areas beyond employment, from health to divorce.

For now, skills are the focus, and about 40 private and public sector organisations are already involved. Finland already keeps detailed records of its citizens’ skill levels — their record in education and further training. And in collaboration with social partners and employers, the government already has information on what skills are currently in demand, and some projections of how those demands are likely to change in future. Adult education is popular and widely available in Finland.

The platform will use algorithms to draw together all of these. Users will be able to see any expected drop in demand for the skills they have. They will receive guidance on what new or updated skills they should be developing, and where they might go to pick them up.

According to Aleksi Kopponen, a special advisor at Finland’s ministry of finance who is working on the project, the exact details of the technology that will sit at the heart of the platform have yet to be finalised.

Another version of the platform, a mobile app, is aimed at young people considering their future after high school. Users answer questions about what areas they would like to work in and their current performance. They can then see what options might become open to them if they boosted their grades a little.

Finland’s plans are in their early stages. But if they can get adults ready for the changing world of work before the changes even hit, it could help avert catastrophe.

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Related topics:
Emerging TechnologiesJobs and the Future of WorkEducation and Skills
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