Career Day just went digital.

The Reach Higher Initiative, a program started by first lady Michelle Obama, and the U.S. Department of Education recently announced five finalists in the Reach Higher Career App Challenge, a competition promoting the development of mobile application solutions that will help middle and high school students navigate education and career choices. The challenge is not only aimed at helping students discover education and career options, but also at expanding the tools available to career counselors in middle and high schools.

The challenge, announced last fall, will culminate later this summer with the winner announcement. However, before a winner is announced, all five finalist apps will have a chance to show off their capabilities at Demo Day. The winning app or apps will receive prize packages from Microsoft and IBM.

While each app is designed to help children clarify their career goals, the apps go about this in very different ways. The five finalists were determined by a judging panel featuring experts from K-12 education, higher education, the technology industry, and education nonprofits. When determining the finalists, judges considered five key criteria: actionable outcomes, the target audience, scalability, market differentiation, and team commitment.

    • Future Plans was developed by Pinellas Education Foundation and is a career discovery app. The app matches student aptitudes and interests with educational pathways to in-demand careers. Future Plans helps students evaluate career options and offers tools such as resume building, job interview tips, and job-hunting videos.
    • Hats & Ladders takes a game-based approached to helping kids explore new careers. Developed by ThinkZone Games, Hats & Ladders uses swipe-to-choose self-assessments, connected activities, and mini-challenges. Through the app, middle and high school students experience repeat exposure to a wide variety of careers. It also helps students link their personal interests and skills with potential career opportunities.
    • INFORM Journeys guides students down different life paths with an interactive learning map. The  app helps kids navigate all of life’s possibilities, from K-12 to military service and vocational training. Within the app, students can create personalized road maps to investigate different career opportunities and explore curated resources. The app also offers career interest surveys, self-assessments, and progress reporting.
    • MARi, created by MARi , is a school and career coaching app that brings together numerous tools, including assessments, capability mapping, and achievement validation. The app also offers information on personalized career and education opportunities in a comprehensive map of the labor market. MARi continuously tracks student progress to create a visual gap analysis and is able to alert students of local opportunities.
    • Overgrad was created by Overgrad and is a Web platform that uses community resources, technology, and data to support student outcomes. Overgrad brings together academic achievement information with career interest surveys to help students select appropriate career pathways and track their progress.
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs