AI system built by Western prof transforms London job portal

Computer science  Anwar Haque, who uses AI to solve real-world industry challeng
Computer science Anwar Haque, who uses AI to solve real-world industry challenges. (Frank Neufeld)
When computer science professor Anwar Haque first connected with the London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), the organization and its member companies were manually populating its job board with postings.

It meant staff spent time copying and pasting employment opportunities and formatting them to fit with the style of LEDC’s central job board. As London saw rapid population growth, job postings were exploding.

Haque knew he could create a better solution.

"It was a very laborous job. Im agine all these companies are posting jobs on a daily basis, and each has a different format. You only have a couple of people to convene all’of them, digest them and post them on the LEDC website in a unified style; it’s impossible to do that in real time," Haque said.

So, Haque, along with his PhD candidate Muhammad Zakar, built the answer using artificial intelligence (AI).

"We were trying to reduce the number of manual hours - improving productivity for LEDC - eliminate any human errors and ensure the timeliness of updates by making them more frequent," Haque said. "We started thinking about how to do that: Can we develop an AI model that can do exactly the same thing a human can do, and do it better?"

Computer science professor Anwar Haque in his lab at Western with a drone and robot. Haque builds smart technology solutions to answer industry challenges. (Christopher Kindratsky/Western Communications)

Haque and the research team at Bamboo Innovations - his company, hosted at the BioNext incubator at Western , focuses on commercializing smart technological solutions in various fields - built an advanced AI model using machine learning algorithms to scan websites, pick up any new job postings, adjust them to fit LEDC’s standard format and add them to the LEDC job board every 24 hours.

"By leveraging generative AI technologies, we developed innovative and intelligent software for this project," said Haque. "Throughout the project, we worked closely with LEDC’s job board team and the local IT company"

The AI job system launched January 2024 on a trial basis, before expanding to LEDC’s hundreds of member companies. Haque hopes to expand to scan job postings from every employer site in London and area before the end of the year.

AI solution drives impact

With technological help, all those staff hours were reclaimed for the LEDC.

"This automation eliminates manual tasks, allowing us to focus on other high-impact workforce development activities and provide better support to employers, driving growth and economic prosperity in our region," said Christine Wilton, director of workforce development at LEDC.

"There was a significant amount of effort put into AI prompt engineering to make the job boards output reliable and accurate, maintaining the credibility of our job boards, while eliminating the manual work. Our verified job boards attract quality candidates and offer job seekers trustworthy, efficient access to legitimate job opportunities."

Haque’s technology has a ripple effect that services the wider community, Wilton said.

"Our job boards allow us to tell the story of opportunity in the London region’s key sectors and we promote these opportunities locally, regionally and internationally.  Access to highly qualified talent fuels growth, investment and innovation for companies expanding in London." - Christine Wilton, LEDC’s director of workforce development 

For Haque, who also served as the industry expert in residence at Western’s Faculty of Science, it’s about deploying generative AI and other smart technology solutions in the real world. He wants to use academic research to respond to real-world challenges.

From directing patients to the right health-care service based on their symptoms and health queries, to a robotic arm that could water plants or retrieve medication for elderly people, to a security system that predicts cyberattacks, Haque is crafting AI answers for all kinds of problems.

He also uses those projects as opportunities to train students.

"I wanted to bridge the gap between industry and academia in the best way I could. That’s why Bamboo Innovations came into the picture. The mission and vision is to have responsible intelligence or smart technological development that will help our society, our quality of life," he said. 

"The work with LEDC is one of the recent success stories of Bamboo."