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CAEL Pathways Blog

Meet The Innovators Transforming the Future of Workforce Development

A guest blog provided by XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling and Finalist Teams VITAL, Dignified Work, and SHIFA360.

Imagine a future in which all workers can rapidly attain new skills that can boost their ability to thrive at work, not only in their current position but for their entire career.

A future in which members of society enjoy gainful employment and meaningful work. In which advancements in AI don't equate to the end of human employment, instead, automation and disruptive technologies augment and improve human training, productivity, and work experience. 

Now what if I told you, the future of work is no longer something to simply imagine, that we are closer than you think to a totally new way of working?  In June 2020, XPRIZE partnered with New Profit Inc. to launch XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, a $5 million dollar incentivized competition that aims to find methods to quickly reskill under-resourced workers for the digital revolution. The one-of-a-kind prize invited  experts and teams from around the world to enter their innovative training solutions designed to reskill workers in industries where projected job growth exceeds the national average such as hospitality, healthcare, transportation, construction and manufacturing. Novel solutions developed as a result of XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling are uplifting the labor market in the U.S. by addressing core problems impeding effective workforce development including a widening skills gap, deteriorating job quality, and a lack of collaboration between educators, training providers, staffing agencies, employers and academic institutions in the labor market. 

What's most exciting is that XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling teams are already demonstrating that reskilling can be done at least twice as fast as current solutions and in a way that is affordable and accessible, all while leveraging momentum and driving impact through strong partnerships with employers and other entities in the labor market. Specifically, teams are rapidly training individuals in 90 days or less at no entry cost, placing as many as possible within 60 days in living wage, full-time relevant-to-training jobs, and ensuring job retention of at least 60 days. 

Now, as the four finalist teams approach the close of  the competition field test, we wanted to reach out to learn more about their XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling journey and dive into their plans for the future. We asked teams to discuss who their learners were, lessons learned, their plans post-competition, and ideal partners whom they would like to work with. See what the finalist teams had to say.

Team VITAL is a collaboration led by Banyan Tree Global in partnership with Colaberry and other supporters. Together, we are able to deliver a comprehensive solution to learners with an accelerated reskilling for their career journey by deploying innovative technology solutions for learning and feedback as well as structured support and mentorship to help secure employment, while empowering learners with technical and human skills.

As a Finalist team for XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling Challenge, we worked closely with workforce/governmental organizations, nonprofits and constituent groups.  We encountered hundreds of learners from diverse backgrounds and experiences - from refugees and asylum seekers to people who had lost their jobs due to automation and outsourcing. From them, we learned lessons of resilience, aspirations to learn and build careers and a better life for their family and children. The lessons have helped us at Team VITAL develop a better understanding of learners, their unique needs and become more empathetic supporters, which will help us improve the course content and delivery of services going forward. 

Our solution was focused on employability, particularly soft skills. We developed an AI powered video feedback system to support learners who are trying to improve their interview and communication skills by giving them suggestions to improve body language, gesture movement as well as sentence structure and word usage.

After XPRR, we intend to expand our collaborations with other competitors and many connections we have made in this journey. We continue to seek out community and employer partners where we can re-skill and upskill with our specific training verticals and human skills programming to enhance basic digital skills that many partners already offer. We intend to partner with other training organizations that offer interview skills as part of their offerings and also offer our learning platform to other educational institutes. 

To connect with/learn more about Team VITAL, click here.

Being a part of the XPRIZE competition has been highly valuable for our organization, Team Dignified Work.  The work has been highly challenging and highly rewarding at the same time. We have had the opportunity to serve dislocated and underemployed job seekers in metropolitan, suburban and rural areas alike.  Our students learned more about themselves, the power of their individual stories, and the possibilities that lay ahead of them when they are tapped into their stories and themselves.  We were blown away by their openness, vulnerability, and willingness to jump into their learning with both feet. We believe that our organizations and team have greatly benefited as practitioners of adult education by giving space for constant iteration and practice of our solution. Job seekers have certainly benefited from learning about occupational skills and the deep dive into their own story, yet we are also incredibly proud of the way learners have informed our solution every step of the way.  Through pilots and open feedback loops, learners have shared their voices and experience allowing us to craft a solution that is meaningful to them.

Being part of the XPRIZE competition has given us new energy and the capacity to dream about offering this service in a meaningful way.  We are working collaboratively to launch our solution as an option for job seekers in multiple areas of Washington State, beyond the bounds of the XPRIZE contest.

Dignified Work has a bright future ahead.  We are looking to continue to break the spirit of poverty, through the dignity of work.  We envision doing this through our rapid, human-centered, story-based, solution. If you are a local employer, a financial supporter of innovative/equity-centered workforce development, or an individual who is looking to partner with a meaningful body of work, we'd love to connect. 

To connect with/learn more about Dignified Work, click here.

SHIFA360 learners are diverse in age, gender, race, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, educational level, technology acumen, and job experience. Underserved, immigrant and refugee populations. Our programs are in high demand because they do not require a college degree and are self-paced, provide wrap-around services support, individual coaching, and job preparedness developed through human-centric technology and a sixth-grade learning level design.

The trainings we offered for Rapid Reskilling were Community Health Worker (CHW) training which teaches soft skills such as cultural humility, privacy (HIPAA), and use of technology (VR) to educate clients; Medical Secretary (MS) training program teaches soft and technical skills, has hands-on EHR software practice for real-world experience; and Motor Vehicle Operator (MVO) training which  teaches customer service and other soft skills, preparing them for class-c driver's license, and behind the wheel VR truck driving simulation to prepare for A/B driver's license.  

 Participating in XPRR advanced our team as educators and innovators in this space. We observed that skills training alone is ineffective without personalized support, such as the use of technology, building a LinkedIn profile, and real-world interviewing. We learned that personal and educational growth is dependent on the uniqueness of each learner, such as information retention and stress management, which may individually inhibit achieving success. 

Our learners benefited from individual attention and empathetic communication. Individualized coaching to address their unique challenges while preventing feelings of solitude.

Post-competition we will continue developing and offering our training programs to align with regional living-wage job opportunities to our targeted populations. Our data shows that jobs in Child Care Services and Hospitality/Services sectors are in high demand and lack training programs with culturally relevant content. 

We welcome partners from the technology and education sectors. For example, a data engineer can help us implement our data acquisition, warehousing, and analysis strategy. College partners can be instrumental in our success by offering our training as a certificate program, attracting more business partners. 

To connect with/learn more about SHIFA360, click here.

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Connect with Rapid Reskilling this Fall! Say hi at these upcoming events

-EDTECH WEEK; September 20-22, NYC

-NCPN; October 19-22, Atlanta

-CAEL (virtual panel); November 16-18

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