On November 10, the Future Finder Challenge team hosted a virtual panel discussion to provide insights into who adult learners are, their unique career navigation needs, and considerations for designing digital tools to support them. The session featured:

  • Eric Nesheim, Interim Managing Director at Northstar Digital Strategies
  • Hector Martinez, Director of Adult Education at Kansas Board of Regents
  • Jen Vanek, Director of Digital Learning and Research, U.S. at World Education

These subject matter experts discussed factors that contribute to effective career navigation tools for adult learners and answered questions submitted by attendees. Watch the session recording and continue reading for highlights from the live event.

Read the transcript, see the slides, and review a summary of frequently asked questions and answers.

Disclaimer: The content or opinions expressed in this presentation do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply an official endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Helping adults learners understand and navigate pathways to high-quality careers

Adult learners face an array of challenges, from learning English as a second language and acclimating to new communities to navigating unfamiliar workforce systems. To be effective, career navigation tools should help adult learners understand and take each step as they explore, enter into, and thrive in their careers, while remaining inclusive of a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, and skill levels. 

“Adult learners need to see the goal, they need to see the pathway, and they need to be able to see what step is needed and how they accomplish that step to move forward.”

Hector Martinez
Director of Adult Education at Kansas Board of Regents

Making technology portable, engaging, and broadly accessible 

Adult learners may have limited experience with technology, which can diminish their ability to take full control of their career navigation experience. Many may not be able to afford cellular data plans that can support complex apps. That’s why adult learners need digital tools that are accessible and easy to use on smartphones, as well as require minimal data.

“If you really want a community of learners — who we know are smartphone dependent for access to wifi and access to the resources that are conveyed online — it’s got to be super lightweight. It’s also got to be super easy to onboard, with just one or two clicks to onboard and get started”.

Jen Vanek
Director of Digital Learning and Research, U.S. at World Education

Supporting digital skills development in a dynamic workforce

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the workforce experience for many. As jobs have shifted to hybrid or fully remote models, employees have had to transition into work systems that require significant digital literacy. Yet many adult learners need opportunities to learn basic digital skills, such as creating passwords or logging into accounts. Adult learners would benefit from tools that could help them acquire the skills they need to thrive in today’s workforce and develop them as skills needs change in the dynamic work landscape. 

“It’s a very important piece to note for anyone working on developing something — virtually every job requires digital skills. That’s what you hear from me every time.” 

Eric Nesheim
Interim Managing Director at Northstar Digital Strategies

Enter the $1 million challenge by December 15

Stage 1 submissions for the Future Finder Challenge are due by 6:00 p.m. ET on December 15, 2022. To get started, view the submission form and review the selection criteria. Teams are encouraged to explore the challenge resources to learn more about adult learners, the adult ed ecosystem, and career navigation support. Register for the challenge community to identify opportunities to collaborate with others or add members to your team.

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