‘Thousands will be displaced’: Stone & Chalk acquires tech internship platform Ribit as robots loom large over labour


Alex Scandurra, chief executive of Stone & Chalk. Source: supplied.

Not-for-profit tech incubator Stone & Chalk has acquired CSIRO’s internship matching platform Ribit, in a bid to bolster the bridge between local talent and startups looking for highly skilled staff.

The deal, the financial terms of which were not disclosed, is the latest effort from the incubator to expand beyond financial technology, particularly as the spectre of the fourth industrial revolution foreshadows drastic changes in the labour market.

Chief executive Alex Scandurra tells SmartCompany that Stone & Chalk will look to expand the platform into tech industry pathways for Australians already in the workforce.

“We want to expand Ribit’s current value proposition around student internships and STEM opportunities,” Scandurra says.

“We’ll provide opportunities for graduates, and then also consider people looking to transition into STEM that are already in the workforce.”

Launched out of CSIRO’s Data61 arm in 2016, Ribit currently serves as an internship matchmaking platform connecting local startups with STEM students at Australian universities.

Originally supported by funding from the federal government’s Digital Careers program, the platform has developed a talent pipeline spanning almost 40,000 students from more than 40 universities, connecting interns with about 3,000 technology businesses to date.

Liz Jakubowski, who has overseen Ribit at Data61 since its inception, believes now is the time for the platform to be taken to the next level.

“The majority of new, high-value jobs are created by innovative businesses and high-growth companies in emerging industry sectors,” she said in a statement.

“Providing these businesses with a pipeline of strong talent is absolutely critical to their success.”

As the race between technology and education continues — with automation putting millions of local jobs at risk over next 15 years — Scandurra is betting there will be increased demand for services that up-skill human capital and connect it with tech-based employment opportunities.

“Thousands of people will be potentially displaced due to technology, what we want to do is help as many as possible in gaining employment,” he says.

“Jobs growth is created through high potential SMEs and startups … technology companies are built for the global context, and have the highest propensity to employ.”

Scandurra says the automation of the workforce is occurring “much faster” than previously thought, and that solutions for ensuring employment opportunities remain available into the future are sorely needed.

“People are recognising they need new skills,” he says.

“For years, mines have been increasingly automating and removing labour, and in financial services, we’ve already had the big banks indicate they’re going to be letting go thousands of workers.

“Ultimately it’s all about helping Australians find the best work that gives them the best satisfaction and the highest potential opportunities.”

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