Australian government works with Balance Internet and technology companies to help thousands of citizens learn new job skills.
site visits to Skill Finder marketplace in first year
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 use the service
30 partners joined with Adobe to provide free access to 3,000+ courses
More than 320,000 people visited the Skill Finder site, with 22% accessing courses
E-commerce capabilities enabled nimble, consumer-like user experience
Insights from Adobe Analytics helped drive user recruitment and curation of courses
CEO, Balance Internet
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread, the Australian government realised that many workers, particularly those in the hardest hit industries – such as tourism, hospitality, and bricks-and-mortar retail – would be looking to shift careers. They would need to quickly acquire new skills relevant in an increasingly digital-first world.
In response, the Australian Government reached out to Adobe and other technology companies for help in finding novel ways to rapidly retrain and upskill workers looking to move into new roles in the digital economy.
Fortunately, Adobe knew whom to call: James Horne, CEO of Balance Internet. An Adobe partner for many years, Balance Internet stepped up and in mere weeks, by donating, hundreds of development hours, delivered the Skill Finder marketplace using Adobe Commerce. Skill Finder provides easy, no-charge access to online courses that help workers quickly build “micro-skills.”
To build out the offerings, Adobe donated a number of skill-building courses in subjects like graphic design, coding, and web analytics. Other leading companies like Accenture, Microsoft, Google, and LinkedIn also donated courses highly relevant for today’s workers.
“Skill Finder is all about giving people instantly consumable skills,” says Horne. “They can reskill, they can upskill, and they can do that on a regular and simple basis for free or low fee.”
Rather than offering time-consuming traditional certification courses, the Skill Finder marketplace focuses on teaching micro-skills through shorter, more focused lessons in a broad range of subject areas from cloud computing, security, and machine learning to computer basics, design, and general business skills. As a result, workers can quickly develop a portfolio of capabilities that help prepare them for careers in the digital economy. And they are doing so in large numbers: in Skill Finder’s first year, digital learners accessed more than 70,000 micro-skills courses.
Melbourne-based Balance Internet is an e-commerce innovator and part of the Publicis Groupe globally. Over many years of building digital commerce experiences for many of Australia’s leading organisations in both the private and public sectors, the company developed multiple use cases for Adobe Commerce in areas like public services, education, and healthcare that have brought e-commerce functionality into non-commerce fields.
“It’s all about the experience,” says Horne. “People want a consumer-type experience when they engage online, whether they are buying a shirt or looking to build their skills. Adobe Commerce delivers that.”
Balance Internet kicked off the Skill Finder development journey by conducting a hackathon that identified and started to flesh out the basic framework for the site. From the start, the intent was to make the marketplace mobile-first and as intuitive and easy-to-use as possible. This principle led to the concept of Jesse, a virtual digital assistant who welcomes newcomers to the site and helps them find what they need.
Unseen by the user, but critical to the site’s usability, the team also designed an elegant taxonomy based on e-commerce principles. The taxonomy not only enables users to easily find the right individual courses, but also powers more sophisticated “cross-selling” capabilities like personalised recommendations and bundling of courses by job function, career pathway, or industry.
“I call what we are doing ‘cross-industry innovation’: taking something originally built for retailers and wholesalers and using it not to sell products but to present services or skill-building opportunities to citizens,” says Horne.
Balance Internet chose to take advantage of the headless capabilities of Adobe Commerce to enable fast response times on mobile devices, and to empower its developers with maximum flexibility to quickly add new features and enhance the user experience. As a result, the Skill Finder site handles spikes in usage with no impact on performance.
“When we’ve run a marketing campaign to recruit new users or Skill Finder has been featured in the media, the site has experienced big traffic spikes,” says Horne. “Because of the headless architecture enabled by Adobe Commerce, every user receives an optimal experience every time.”
CEO, Balance Internet
In the first year since its launch, Skill Finder has enjoyed tremendous growth and widespread adoption, jumping from 3,500 visits the first month to more than 320,000 overall so far. After starting with 500 courses contributed by Adobe and the other 13 founding partners, Skill Finder now offers more than 3,000 courses from over 30 providers.
From the start, Adobe Analytics has helped guide this growth by providing actionable insights into areas such as user preference, behaviour, and demographics. The team used these learnings to aid in how they refined the usability of the site, how they recruited partners and curated courses, and how they targeted recruitment campaigns at certain user populations.
For example, the team saw that soft skills courses such as “3 Skills for Success at Work” were proving more popular than they had anticipated, so they recruited more providers of business skills courses.
More than two-thirds of visitors self-identified as beginners, since many of them were coming from industries like tourism, which was greatly impacted by the pandemic, and were looking to build new skills in support of career shifts. This insight led the team to make changes to the site’s design and usability, such as simplifying the search function, adding sub-categories, and providing more personalised course recommendations.
Analytics that geographically pinpointed the regions of Australia with the highest and lowest demand told the marketing team where to target their promotional efforts. At the same time, data on the effectiveness of various marketing channels helped direct their spend on online tactics like PR, display advertising, and paid search most effectively.
“We use insights from Adobe Analytics to inform our citizen uptake strategies and to continually enhance the user experience,” Horne says. “As a result, we’ve seen big increases in course enrollment.”
The ultimate goal of all these efforts has been first, to drive visitors to the Skill Finder site, and second, to have them enroll in skill-building courses. The conversion rate of visitors to enrollees has averaged an amasing 22% and risen to more than 40% via some channels, thanks largely to the team’s ability to translate analytics insights into real-life improvements across all program areas.
Given the strong momentum achieved in its first year and the flexibility of the Adobe Commerce platform on which it’s built, there is no shortage of ideas about where to take Skill Finder in the coming years. In addition to continuing to refine the robustness of the existing site and expand the catalog of courses, the team envisions new use cases and new audiences for Skill Finder.
For example, just as a retailer might provide consumers different pathways through its collection of products and brands, Skill Finder could also provide customised experiences for various sets of users. Imagine a Skill Finder for healthcare, or a Skill Finder for tourism, which specifically curate content and provide pathways based on the needs and behaviours of users from those sectors.
“We’ve essentially built an e-commerce-like scaffold that can have all these different entrance ways and pathways into it,” says Horne. “And that capability has a huge amount of application within government, for example. The way we've built Skill Finder means you could apply it to health services, support services, disability services, a whole range of different government services. The sky’s the limit.”