Video games can help bring excluded youth into work

Hannah Kuchler in the Financial Times: “Gamification” is a case in point. This buzzword describes attempts by companies to turn dull workplace chores into play, perhaps by injecting an element of video gaming or a ranking system. That such exercises are often a disguised way of tracking and boosting productivity can leave workers sulky, not cheered.

An exception is when gamification is used to pave the way to a job, rather than tinker with an existing role.

The Rockefeller Foundation, a US charity, recently teamed up with a start-up called Knack to use video games to assess the suitability of unemployed, underqualified 16- to 24-year-olds for entry-level jobs. A typical Knack game might involve playing a busy sushi waiter to show an ability to juggle tasks, prioritise and be considerate.

With Rockefeller research finding two-thirds of lifetime wage growth comes in the first 10 years of employment, the foundation believes it is vital to search for ways to make it easier to get a first job.

Involving the French insurance group AxaAmerican Express and the US health insurer Cigna, the trial assessed the abilities of 600 young unemployed Americans for jobs as financial analysts, customer service representatives and insurance claims processors.

What it found surprised some: in the games, 83 per cent of the unemployed scored at least as well as the companies’ existing staff in these roles : evidence of a sort that, despite not having stacks of certificates, they could be trusted and hired.

Rockefeller concluded that the games, designed to test skills appropriate for each role, “hold great promise” for changing the course of youth employment. The foundation is especially excited because unlike intensive training programmes such as one-on-one interview-coaching, video games are easily scalable, creating the opportunity to get a lot of people their first job, fast.

Axa was drawn to the trial after it successfully recruited employees who had certificates from mass open online courses — known as Moocs — rather than conventional universities….(More)”