High-impact solutions to an urgent adult education problem

High-impact solutions to an urgent adult education problem

U.S. Department of Education announces winners of the Future Finder Challenge.

While education remains vital to career success, it is often no longer enough to access high-quality jobs that pay well. Delivering digital career navigation tools to adult learners will be critical to transforming the lives of millions of Americans with foundational skill needs.

This month, the U.S. Department of Education announced winners of the Future Finder Challenge, a $1 million challenge to reimagine career navigation for adult learners. Gladeo, a minority- and women-owned public benefit corporation based in Los Angeles, California, is the grand-prize winner and will receive an additional $500,000. Workbay, a woman-owned business based in Franklin, Tennessee, is the runner-up and will receive an additional $250,000.

The winning teams’ solutions have demonstrated compelling evidence of their potential to support adult learners in developing the skills and knowledge to pursue their career interests. Throughout the remainder of 2023 and into 2024, the Future Finder Challenge will support the winning teams as they further refine and implement their digital career navigation tools across the adult education ecosystem.

“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 winners


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.

About the challenge

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.

To receive updates as the winning teams deploy their solutions, subscribe to the Future Finder Challenge newsletter.