From education to employment

Youngsters turn to AI to boost human soft skills

Youngsters turn to AI to boost human soft skills

DISADVANTAGED youngsters are boosting their chances of success at job interviews by using a Cabinet Office-backed AI programme that teaches them soft skills. 

The tech innovation, funded by Innovate UK, is helping pupils in secondary and further education overhaul their performance during interviews.

Soft skills, such as coming across well in a job interview and knowing how to prepare for them, are often cited as one of the biggest barriers to success for young people from less privileged backgrounds. Nacro Education, a national charity that helps reignite a love of learning amongst disadvantaged pupils aged 14 up, has teamed up with social purpose tech firm A-dapt to revolutionise the way young people present during nail-biting interviews with potential bosses. 

The A-dapt Interview Training Simulator was trialled in two Nacro education centres, Sheffield and Southampton, and took seven months to create. 

Some 50 learners aged 16-19 took part in the month-long pilot, which it is anticipated, will be rolled out across all 14 Nacro learning centres in the months ahead.

Learners are taken through the AI programme in three steps: the first is what to say when asked common questions, the second part covers how to get ready for the interview while the third step is an AI based simulation of an interview.

During the mock interview, learners are filmed answering questions to a pre-recorded video after selecting the type of job they want. Their attention and positivity are monitored and they are ‘nudged’ to look at the camera and the interviewer more and smile.

After using the AI programme, the quality of answers from candidates improved by 54 per cent. Confidence rose by 40 per cent, happiness rose by 48 per cent and engagement was up by 39 per cent. Attention scores increased by 15 per cent while positivity was raised by 22 per cent

Lisa Capper MBE, principal and director of education and skills at Nacro, said:

“The biggest barrier to getting that job or onto a course for most of our students is the interview process itself. They can often find it difficult to answer questions confidently, don’t always have the tools to prepare for an interview and therefore can struggle to stay engaged during the interview process. 

‘’We needed a radical solution to reach all of our learners and get specific and targeted support and feedback, so we turned to tech with an attractive tool for young people to boost what are essentially human qualities. Many interviews are now online so using this tool has added benefits.”

Nacro partnered with A-dapt to help create and use the A-dapt Interview Training Simulator with Nacro students in two of its centres. 

Matthew Mayes, co-founder of A-dapt said:

“A-dapt uses AI for good and our mission is to help the disadvantaged in society. We wanted to help Nacro provide a platform that prepares young adults for job interviews, sharpening the learner’s self-awareness, boosting their confidence and developing their emotional intelligence, giving them all they need to give their best possible interview.”

Nacro now plans to work with the start-up on a confidence visualisation tool to develop confidence, resilience and trust.

Amber Osborn-Smith, head of quality and curriculum at Nacro, said:

“The project has been a great success and has helped our students to learn what to say in an interview, how to prepare for it and even more importantly, provided them with practice in answering interview questions live in an online simulator. This will help our disadvantaged learners to develop their soft skills and improve their opportunities to do well in the world of work.”

A-dapt is now developing the A-dapt Interview Training Simulator in the education and online training sector, focussing on other soft skill areas: communication, collaboration, critical observation, problem solving and leadership skills. A-dapt will be presenting the product at this year’s Web Summit conference in Lisbon which starts on 1st November.

The soft skills AI format will also be offered to the private sector, with larger organisations poised to benefit from a training programme that can be scaled up whilst also remaining bespoke to the individual employee.

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