New $750,000 challenge breaks down barriers to apprenticeships

New $750,000 challenge breaks down barriers to apprenticeships

The U.S. Department of Education launched the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge to advance pre-apprenticeships.

In recent decades, shifting demographics, along with the rise of technology and automation, have been changing the way we work and learn. The American education system is faced with the challenge of preparing K-12 students for the jobs of tomorrow while simultaneously helping the current workforce upskill and reskill for the jobs of today. And in a time of uncertainty and high unemployment, the need for adult education opportunities is greater than ever.

Apprenticeships open pathways into rewarding careers across a range of industries — from manufacturing and construction to technology and healthcare. And this type of work-based learning is on the rise: More than 3,000 new apprenticeship programs started in 2019 alone. But many adult learners face barriers to accessing apprenticeship opportunities; they may not have the requisite skills, supplies, or support to participate. Pre-apprenticeships break down these barriers by helping adults enter, prepare for, and succeed in apprenticeships and other industry roles.

This week, the U.S. Department of Education launched the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge, a $750,000 competition to advance pre-apprenticeships. The open innovation challenge, designed and produced by Luminary Labs, asks adult education providers to design programs that better prepare learners for apprenticeships and beyond.

AEFLA-funded community colleges, correctional facilities, libraries, community-based organizations, and other eligible providers interested in entering the challenge should complete a Stage 1 submission by November 25, 2020. The online submission seeks a preliminary design for a pre-apprenticeship program, including a description of the target learners, the adult education and literacy activities the program may provide, and industry needs.

A review panel will select finalists to join Stage 2, which runs from February to July 2021. Finalists will have access to a range of digital resources — such as case studies, exercises, and webinars with subject matter experts — to help them refine their designs and develop more detailed program proposals. A judging panel will review the submitted proposals and select one grand-prize winner and up to five runners-up. The grand-prize winner will be awarded $250,000, and up to five runners-up will each receive at least $100,000.

Learn more about the challenge and register to attend the virtual information session on October 15.