Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Gladeo, a minority- and women-owned public benefit corporation based in Los Angeles, California, has been selected as the grand-prize winner in the Future Finder Challenge. Workbay, a woman-owned business based in Franklin, Tennessee, has been selected as the runner-up. The Gladeo team will receive an additional $500,000 and the Workbay team will receive an additional $250,000 to support the continued development and deployment of their digital career navigation tools. These awards recognize that Gladeo and Workbay’s innovative solutions have demonstrated compelling evidence of their potential to support adult learners in developing the skills and knowledge to pursue their career interests.

High-impact solutions to an urgent problem

While education remains vital to career success, it is often no longer enough to access high-quality jobs that pay well, including those created through the Biden Administration’s signature Investing in America agenda. Delivering digital career navigation tools to adult learners will be critical to unlocking the full economic potential of the CHIPS and Science Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act — and to transforming the lives of millions of Americans with foundational skill needs.

“By centering the experience and unique needs of adult learners, the Future Finder Challenge has accelerated the development and deployment of urgently needed solutions to build a more equitable future,” said Dr. Amy Loyd, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. “Gladeo’s and Workbay’s digital tools represent the forefront of technology innovation in adult education, and I’m thrilled that the adult learners we serve will benefit from their use as they build a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Meet the winning teams

From left to right: Gladeo co-founders Michelle and Grace Cho.

Grand-prize winner Gladeo utilizes research-based design to help adult learners build skills and confidence for quality careers. Its multilingual interventions include digitized informational interviews, personalized resource recommendations, and an integrated program finder. Gladeo provides learners with career information through inclusive video storytelling and helps them identify trustworthy education and skill-building programs. Gladeo has built successful regional partnerships with workforce agencies and education providers to ensure that learners can access the resources they need to thrive.

The Workbay team from left to right: Jay Christensen, Correctional Engagement Advisor; Stephanie Taylor-Thompson, Director, Reentry Transformation; Mary Hayes, Co-Founder and CEO; and Alice Hayes, Co-Founder and President.

Runner-up Workbay offers job seekers a community-specific mobile app and web-based platform that connects them to local resources as well as videos, learning content, and job postings. Workbay links recruitment with skill-building programs to help learners identify and successfully pursue local careers of interest. Throughout the Future Finder Challenge, Workbay focused on expanding its platform to support adults currently and formerly incarcerated and worked with people who are incarcerated to test and refine its solution.

The challenge and beyond

The Department launched the Future Finder Challenge in September 2022, inviting innovators — including educators, strategists, developers, and user-centered designers — to submit prototypes for digital career navigation tools that will help adult learners understand, choose, and prepare for career opportunities. The challenge received submissions from 76 teams in 29 states, including minority-, women-, Veteran,- LGBTQ+-, and Native American-owned organizations.

In March 2023, the Department announced five finalists. Each finalist received $60,000 — a $50,000 cash prize and an additional $10,000 to support accelerator activities — and an invitation to join a six-month virtual accelerator. The accelerator kicked off in New York City with an in-person bootcamp. In September, the finalist teams traveled to Washington, D.C., to present their refined tools before a live audience and judging panel at Demo Day. The independent judging panel then scored the submissions against the Stage-2 selection criteria and recommended the final slate of winners to the Department.

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