U.S. Department of Education Announces Finalists in the Future Finder Challenge to Advance Digital Career Navigation Tools for Adult Learners
March 8, 2023
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Today, the U.S. Department of Education is announcing five finalists in the Future Finder Challenge, a $1 million challenge to reimagine career navigation for adult learners. This is the first time the Department has launched a challenge to advance the education technology space for adult learners. These finalists 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.
The Future Finder Challenge brings collaboration and innovation into the adult education environment through education technology. This challenge supports the Secretary’s "Raise the Bar: Lead the World" priority to ensure that every student has a pathway to college and career.
“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.”
The challenge received 76 submissions in response to OCTAE’s invitation to build digital career navigation tools that better support adult learners. Entrant teams — including minority, women, veteran, LGBTQ+, and Native American-owned organizations from 29 states — submitted prototypes ranging from skills assessment and career matching to mentor access and job application tools. To evaluate submissions against the Stage 1 criteria, the challenge brought together multidisciplinary panels of reviewers and judges with expertise in adult education, edtech, career navigation, industry, and inclusion and accessibility.
The Department congratulates the five finalists:
- BestFit, a minority & women-owned business (St. Louis, Missouri) - A mobile-optimized web platform that connects learners with wraparound supports and services to increase program retention. The platform matches learners to on-campus, community, federal, and philanthropic resources such as childcare, healthcare, transportation, meals, and financial assistance.
- Gladeo, a minority & women-owned business (Los Angeles, California) - A regional career navigation web platform that combines a virtual career day with a self-assessment quiz, program finder, and a personalized news feed of resources and opportunities, helping adult learners identify and pursue new career pathways. The platform’s enterprise cloud tools also allow case managers and job centers to guide, manage, and track their clients’ journeys.
- Territorium, a minority-owned business (San Antonio, Texas) - A mobile application that matches adult learners’ knowledge, experience, and interests with current hiring needs, building a workforce talent pipeline. The app supports learners through career navigation, including assessment, exploration, and relevant training leading to job placement.
- Wingspans, a women-owned business (Providence, Rhode Island) - A web platform that leverages storytelling and AI for self-discovery, career exploration, and lifelong success. It has 700+ real-world stories organized into career, major, school, and employer pages, a personality assessment, employer profiles, a resume builder, career planning tools, and career inspiration.
- Workbay, a women-owned business (Franklin, Tennessee) - 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.
The six-month Stage 2 virtual accelerator will commence with an in-person boot camp. These five finalists will then have access to virtual resources, webinars, and mentorship from subject matter experts across topics such as adult education, design research, product design, storytelling, and growth and sustainability. At the end of the 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.
Beyond Stage 2, the challenge will support winners into 2024 as they deploy their solutions. To help promote further innovation, challenge resources and videos will remain available to all entrants as well as to those who did not participate in the challenge. Innovators are encouraged to continue using these resources to develop new digital tools that reimagine career navigation for adult learners.
To learn more, visit FutureFinderChallenge.com and subscribe to the challenge newsletter.