Balance Internet works with Australian government to support Australian job seekers with Skill Finder, a free skills marketplace.
Weeks to design the Skill Finder POC
Strengthen the Australian economy after the COVID-19 pandemic
Reskill and upskill job seekers to support growth in the digital sector
Connect job seekers with flexible courses designed around micro-skills
Measure how job seekers are using the service
Built Skill Finder website in just 12 weeks
Detailed filters currently help job seekers search through 1,000+ courses from 20 providers
Visitors enrolled in 783 courses in the first 30 days
Headless architecture easily handles traffic spikes and supports customized assisted interface
Gained real-time insights around in-demand courses
Economies worldwide are struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a reality that is expected to last even after people can resume many of their more typical everyday activities. Many businesses have seen revenues drop, leading to rising unemployment and decreased income for hundreds of millions around the globe. In Australia, unemployment rates have reached 7 percent to 9 percent. Hon. Karen Andrews, the Australian Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, saw potential growth in the digital sector as one way to start rebuilding the Australian economy.
In addition to government-sponsored webinars and online education to upskill and reskill Australians to succeed in digital jobs, Andrews reached out to technology companies in Australia with a challenge: come up with other ways to support digital job growth. One idea that came up was the concept of a skills marketplace. Rather than offering broad courses and qualifications, the marketplace would focus on micro-skills through shorter, more focused lessons.
To help get the project started, Adobe contacted partner Balance Internet, a Melbourne-based digital agency, about turning this idea of a skills marketplace into a working, user-friendly platform. The agency has been a Magento Commerce partner from day one, initially focusing on designing, creating, and supporting e-commerce solutions.
Over the years, the agency discovered how the Magento Commerce platform could be adapted to a much wider range of website interactions beyond transactions.
“We specialize in innovating on the Magento platform and coming up with some strong use cases beyond retail and e-commerce,” says James Horne, Director of Strategy, Balance Internet. “We agreed that the skills marketplace was an important initiative for Australia and agreed to donate our time pro bono out of lockdown in Melbourne to build a proof of concept.”
In just one weekend-long hackathon, Balance Internet developed the backbone of a site that would form Skill Finder, probably the world’s first free digital skills marketplace. Built on Magento Commerce, Skill Finder connects Australians with the skills that they need to find new jobs and help Australia become leaders in the digital sector.
Adobe then teamed up with 12 other technology leaders: Atlassian, AWS, Canva, Google, IBM, LinkedIn, Microsoft, MYOB, Salesforce, TAFE NSW, Twitter, and Xero. Together, these technology vendors uploaded more than 500 courses based on specific digital micro-skills, from creating adaptive forms to using Adobe Sign with Microsoft apps to attributing value to touch points in a marketing journey. The number of courses has now grown to over 1,000.
Director of Strategy, Balance Internet
Following the hackathon, the Balance Internet team members donated hundreds of hours, working nights and weekends locked down in their homes in Melbourne to develop a fully operational proof of concept (POC) for Skill Finder in just 12 weeks. Adobe provided Magento Commerce, and AWS provided hosting free of charge. At Adobe’s suggestion, Balance Internet added Adobe Analytics to measure performance and optimize the POC.
“Magento Commerce has the search, navigation, filtering, categorisation and personalisation features that websites like Skill Finder need to succeed,” explains Horne. “We’ve found that we can develop ‘service finder’ and marketplace sites quickly and easily for a variety of use cases by building on Magento Commerce.”
A traditional retail e-commerce site built on Magento Commerce uses a detailed taxonomy to help consumers filter products based on brand, color, size, or price. For Skill Finder, this taxonomy is used to help Australians find the specific courses that they’re looking for. Balance Internet also used the cross-sell and upsell functionality in Magento Commerce to help learners find similar courses and continue building upon their skills.
Balance Internet designed the site around a headless architecture to better handle traffic spikes and give developers the flexibility they need to change the look and feel of the site’s unique front-end. Skill Finder provides clear links where users can browse the catalogue by skill category or provider. Skill Finder also includes a unique assisted interface, similar to a chatbot, that helps newcomers discover skills in any category.
“We expect that many people coming to Skill Finder won’t know exactly what skills they want or need to learn,” says Horne. “So we decided to build a welcoming, human interface based on a chatbot. ‘Jesse’ asks visitors questions and then shows them a list of lessons that they can take or skills they can develop online and for free.”
Balance Internet is currently working on creating course bundles that will make it even easier for visitors to find skills that are right for them. If someone wants to learn about information security, for example, Skill Finder can recommend a bundle of half a dozen skills that are in demand for any information security job. The bundles combined with the friendly Jesse interface will quickly connect learners with the skills they want.
Director of Strategy, Balance Internet
Balance Internet deployed Adobe Analytics as part of the Skill Finder project to help measure the POC and determine what actions the agency and its technical partners could take to improve experiences. Adobe Analytics provides a real-time look into what courses are best connecting with learners, such as the skills people are searching for, the level of study they want, and what course lengths are popular. These insights have helped guide the evolution of the Skill Finder platform.
During the first 30 days of the POC, visitors enrolled in 783 courses. Cloud Computing was the most popular category, indicating that Skill Finder might need to find more partners willing to develop courses around cloud skills. While most people enrolled in in-depth courses lasting more than 20 hours or short courses taking just a couple hours, 23% of visitors searched for courses lasting 2 to 10 hours. This might mean that learners would appreciate more variety in mid-range length courses.
“I was surprised to discover such an overwhelming demand for beginner-level classes,” says Horne. “We thought Skill Finder would get more traffic from people trying to reskill or refine current skills to get new jobs, but we had a lot of interest from young people entering the workforce. Skill Finder acts as a starting point for their digital journey, and we have a great opportunity to help them learn skills that Australia will need to become a digital powerhouse for years to come.”
Since Skill Finder is a government-sponsored project, the government also wants to understand which cities and states visitors are coming from. High traffic from one area might indicate that the area is experiencing particularly difficult job searches. The government might choose to invest more in reaching that population and helping to reskill them.
“The ability to visualize data and to do it in real time is very compelling,” says Horne. “Adobe Analytics is a powerful application that helps us recognize strong insights right away.”
Director of Strategy, Balance Internet
Skill Finder moved from a POC into official operations in March 2021. Adobe Analytics will become even more critical as the organizations start developing milestones and measuring the project’s success.
New course contributors continue to join Skill Finder to deliver new courses around technical databases, cybersecurity, and DevOps. There are now more than 20 course contributors and more than 1,000 courses available on the platform. Some of these courses even extend beyond technical topics. Accenture, for example, created a set of courses based on getting jobs, such as creating resumes, writing a cover letter, or acing interviews.
As the number of contributors grows, Balance Internet hopes to start connecting Skill Finder with recruiters and job sites. This association could be used to help match people with jobs, but Skill Finder could also use information from recruiters to encourage people to learn skills in high demand. In the first six months, the platform saw 23,500 unique visitors and a conversion rate of 19.4%.
“Supply and demand is the next challenge for Skill Finder,” says Horne. “We need to make sure that we’re getting the right skills out there and connecting people with the right jobs. We’re excited to see what will come next for Skill Finder. We know that Adobe will continue to give us the support and technology that we need to help the Australian economy get back on track.”