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DOE Launches $1M Challenge for New Career Navigation Tools

The new Future Finder Challenge aims to spur the development of new digital tools designed to help adult learners navigate new career paths as workplaces digitize and job requirements change.

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The U.S. Department of Education has launched a new initiative to encourage ed-tech innovators and others to “reimagine career navigation for adult learners” via the development of new digital tools.

According to a news release, the $1 million Future Finder Challenge, headed by the Department's Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, will help ed-tech developers to create new digital platforms designed to “better support adult learners as they launch and advance their careers.”

"Developing digital career navigation tools for adult learners will expand equitable access to career opportunities — which will increase upward mobility and strengthen the broader American workforce," said Amy Loyd, assistant secretary for the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education in the statement. "Through the Future Finder Challenge, we're using open innovation to invest in the adult ed-tech ecosystem, driving greater collaboration between adult learners and developers, educators, and employers."

According to data from ProLiteracy, about 43 million American adults need additional adult education as U.S. job requirements change and workplaces digitize their operations. Most career navigation platforms with similar functions are not designed for adult learners, according to the statement, “leaving too many without the support they need to enter and thrive in high-quality, in-demand occupations and high-growth industries.”

"Too many working people have been unable to gain entry into today's fast-growing fields because our adult education programs have not kept up with the pace of technological change in our economy," U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in the statement. "To build a more equitable and inclusive economy we must raise the bar for adult education in the United States and give learners of all ages the tools and opportunities they need to level up their skills and climb the economic ladder. Our Future Finder Challenge is about encouraging innovation and the creation of tools that help adult learners better navigate the workforce and take advantage of career opportunities in today's most in-demand fields."

The challenge looks to kick-start the development of products and career navigation programs by providing platform developers guidance around topics such as user-centered design, data collection and evaluation. The initiative will also bring together adult education providers, ed-tech companies and employers to collaborate on new digital learning tools.

Eligible participants can submit digital tool prototypes until Dec. 15. From there a panel of judges will recommend up to five finalists, who will receive at least $50,000 to participate in the next stage of the initiative, which involves participation in a virtual accelerator program and mentorship from experts to support the development of their tools.

To learn more or to register for a virtual information session, visit