Introducing the Workertech Partnership

Backing a new wave of innovators who will harness technology to improve the prospects, power and choices of workers

by

The world of work was already changing rapidly before the crisis, with rising use of automation and increasing levels of insecure work. Coronavirus has highlighted how exposed many people are to changes in hours, lack of health and safety protections, and how few opportunities there are for flexible employment that works for families.

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted existing issues of low-pay and precarious work

We are facing immediate problems in the labour market, with large sections of the economy suspended, and daily lives disrupted, and we’re not getting back to normal in the short-term. These problems need immediate government support, which RF has consistently called for. But they also need new ways to help people transition into different sectors, add to their skills, and improve the conditions at work. And we shouldn’t lose sight of the problems that existed before this crisis, and which need to be addressed for everyone to have better working lives.

Technology can work for workers

Technology adoption across the economy has disrupted many jobs and industries. Cab driving changed completely with the introduction of Uber. Flexible scheduling software and zero-hours contracts allow businesses to flex their hours, but can make hours and income highly unpredictable.

But better information can also give people power in new ways. Ebay’s introduction of star ratings for buyers and sellers revolutionised what was possible in an anonymous marketplace. Glassdoor and LinkedIn have made it possible to get much more information about a job and an employer before you even start the interview process. But few of these technologies have been created to give workers with low-pay or insecure contracts better information about the jobs they take on, or to help them connect, organise and share information with each other.

In the pilot stage of this work, we worked with Bethnal Green Ventures and Accenture to support a range of workertech projects (see Pilot Portfolio). Earwig is changing construction by helping tradespeople to rate building sites and contractors; Breakroom is bringing ratings and reviews to hourly work in retail and delivery driving; Tendo helps people to document on-the-job skills and prove them to future employers; Upskill Me works with students to develop skills and connect them with employers.

The Workertech Partnership will invest in innovators and support the ecosystem

We want to back a new wave of innovators who will harness technology and data to improve the prospects, power and choices of workers on low-pay or in insecure employment. We will provide funding, and also seek to develop a supportive ecosystem to help them succeed.

We have created the Workertech Partnership, a £1.3m programme backed by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Friends Provident Foundation, Accenture, Ufi VocTech Trust and Trust for London.

This programme will back Workertech start-ups the mission of tackling significant problems in the UK’s labour market with investment and connections to our networks.

In addition to investing at seed and pre-seed stages, and supporting ventures to participate in the Bethnal Green Ventures Tech for Good accelerator, we want to grow a supportive infrastructure of partners and collaborators, and mobilise energy from others who share our commitment to innovation and an inclusive labour market, including those who might adopt or replicate insights from workertech ventures.

If you want to find out more about this programme, please visit our website or email ventures@resolutionfoundaion.org