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Workforce Readiness

$1M ED Challenge Seeks Digital Tools to Help Adult Learners Navigate to Careers

The United States Department of Education has launched the Future Finder Challenge, calling for strategists, developers, user-centered designers, and educators to build digital tools that better support adult learners in their journey from education to the workforce. The multi-stage challenge is offering a prize pool of $1 million: $50,000 each for up to five finalists; $500,000 for one grand-prize winner; and $250,000 shared between up to two runners-up.

Career navigation tools help people understand, choose, and prepare for career opportunities, the Department explained in a news announcement, yet current tools are not designed for adult learners, who may need extra support to reskill for in-demand careers.

"Too many working people have been unable to gain entry into today's fast-growing fields because our adult education programs have not kept up with the pace of technological change in our economy," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, in a statement. "To build a more equitable and inclusive economy we must raise the bar for adult education in the United States and give learners of all ages the tools and opportunities they need to level up their skills and climb the economic ladder. Our Future Finder Challenge is about encouraging innovation and the creation of tools that help adult learners better navigate the workforce and take advantage of career opportunities in today's most in-demand fields."

The challenge asks participants to submit a prototype for a digital tool and outline how the tool will improve adult learners' career navigation outcomes, such as increased self-awareness, career knowledge, confidence, and/or job attainment in high-quality, in-demand occupations and high-growth industries, ED said. Participants must also explain how their tools will integrate with existing career navigation systems and how they will collect and share usage, user, and outcomes data. An independent judging panel will select up to five finalists, who will then participate in a virtual accelerator that provides access to resources, mentorship, and other support, culminating in a live demo day.

The final winners will receive support through 2024 as they deploy their solutions across the adult education ecosystem, ED said.

"Developing digital career navigation tools for adult learners will expand equitable access to career opportunities — which will increase upward mobility and strengthen the broader American workforce," commented Amy Loyd, assistant secretary for ED's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. "Through the Future Finder Challenge, we're using open innovation to invest in the adult ed tech ecosystem, driving greater collaboration between adult learners and developers, educators, and employers."

The deadline for entries is Dec. 15, 2022. The challenge team will hold a virtual information session on Oct. 13. For more information, visit the challenge website.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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