From education to employment

Innovative careers chatbot powered by AI and machine learning set to be rolled out for free in New Year as many seek new opportunities

PEOPLE looking for a career change – or those simply wanting help and advice on their next move – are to be given a helping hand in the new year, thanks to a unique careers computer programme that has been trialled in a school in Derby.

The creators of CiCi – a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning that offers support with creating a CV, latest job vacancies, apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities – are offering free access to this cutting-edge technology throughout January.

It comes as new research commissioned by leading employee benefits provider Unum UK has revealed that nearly a fifth of the UK workforce plan to look for new jobs next year, with higher salaries or better employee benefits in light of the cost-of-living crisis.

The Bemrose School, which has been praised for its careers programme, was the first school in the UK to try brand-new careers chatbot CiCi. Picture: Penguin PR

CiCi boasts more than 25,000 full-time job opportunities across the UK on its site, information on courses and further education and 1,500 inspirational career journey videos. It can also be translated into more than 40 different languages and has a text-to-speech function.

Those using CiCi will ‘chat’ with the bot, enabling personalised information and advice to be delivered to the user 24 hours a day, seven days a week and, if needed, the user can choose to speak to a human adviser.

It has already been hailed a success in Derby, where The Bemrose School have been piloting the project with their pupils, parents and teachers. The YMCA Derbyshire are also using CiCi.

“We are very proud of our careers guidance at The Bemrose School,” said Claire Amos, lead in careers delivery at the Uttoxeter Road school, who recently welcomed personnel from HMS Ambush, the RAF and BBC as part of their careers programme.

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE says she is very excited about the possibilities regarding CiCi.

“CiCi is a fantastic and easy resource that can be used by students of all abilities. It is also very inclusive, and we have seen first-hand how CiCi’s personalised and friendly careers support will help our student to explore their future career possibilities, raise aspirations and become aware of labour market information.”

CiCi is also being used by skills and development organisation City & Guilds to support the London Communities programme, working with vulnerable adults and university students who have completed their studies and are searching for employment.

Arden University and Hounslow-based Aspirations multi-academy trust are also trialling the programme, while CiCi is supporting Ukrainian families as part of the social enterprise FaceWork Group, in London.

CiCi started as an idea in 2019 and was co-developed by career development expert Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Chris Percy and a team of technology gurus. They were awarded funding after being named as one of 20 national finalists in the NESTA/Department for Education-funded CareerTech Challenge.

Further funding was granted by the University of Exeter, as part of their ‘Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab’ project, enabling education and employability providers such as The Bemrose School to pilot CiCi,as part of a test and learn initiative.

Dr Deirdre Hughes said: “CiCi can help those at the start of their career journey, those wanting to change career and those wanting to develop.

“And because it’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week it means that people can explore career routes and options any time of the day or night.

“There is a lot of unrest in the UK right now, with industrial action across several sectors and an exodus of more than half a million people from the British workforce since covid putting the economy at risk of weaker growth; CiCi can help those people start afresh in the new year. We’re very excited about the future of CiCi and the possibilities.”

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