The Education Department has announced five finalists in the Future Finder Challenge, a $1 million challenge to reimagine career navigation for adult learners.

As part of the challenge, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTEA) asked participants to build digital career navigation tools that better support adult learners. According to a press release, this is the first time the department has used a challenge to advance the education technology space for adult learners.

“Career navigation tools have become vital to success in today’s workforce. Yet too few of these tools are designed to support the needs of adult learners,” said Assistant Secretary of the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education Amy Loyd. “We are thrilled to see such high-quality submissions as we work to increase equitable access to quality careers.”

Each finalist will receive $50,000 to support the development of their prototype and will participate in a virtual accelerator – six months of intensive technical assistance to further develop their products. One grand-prize winner will receive $500,000, and up to two runners-up will receive a share of at least $250,000, to be announced in fall 2023.

OCTEA received 76 submissions from 29 states. Entrant teams submitted prototypes ranging from skills assessment and career matching to mentor access and job application tools. To judge submissions, OCTEA brought together multidisciplinary panels of reviewers and judges with expertise in adult education, edtech, career navigation, industry, and inclusion and accessibility.

The five finalists are:

  • BestFit – A mobile-optimized web platform that recommends available resources, empowering adult learners to design their own support networks. The platform matches learners to on-campus, community, Federal, and philanthropic resources such as childcare, healthcare, transportation, meals, and financial assistance.
  • Gladeo – A regional career navigation platform that combines a virtual career day with a program finder, a self-assessment quiz, and personalized news about resources and opportunities, helping adult learners identify and pursue pathways into careers of interest.
  • Territorium – A mobile application that matches adult learners’ knowledge, experience, and interests with current hiring needs, building a workforce pipeline that benefits employers and employees alike.
  • Wingspans – A web platform that provides adult learners with access to more than 700 career stories and employer profiles.
  • Workbay – A web, mobile, and offline platform – deployed across national, state, regional, and correctional programs – that links career exploration, skill-building, job postings, and applicant tracking.

At the end of the six-month Stage 2 virtual accelerator, finalists will submit their market-ready tools and accompanying proposals, and present at a live demo day in fall 2023. A judging panel will review the submissions against the Stage 2 criteria and recommend a slate of winners to the department. The department said the challenge will support winners into 2024 as they deploy their solutions.

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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