Skip to content

JFFLabs Selects Finalists for $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge

February 20, 2019

Mark Day $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge Director

Despite an improving economy, many Americans see their contributions met with a smaller slice of the nation’s income. While we’ve seen modest wage growth over the past year, this growth is hardly at the scale or duration needed to make good on the American promise of opportunity and economic advancement for all.

As interested stakeholders and citizens, we certainly have a role to play in preparing for the demands of a changing economy. We must ensure that businesses thrive and that workers are not left behind. The $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge is based on the belief that wage gains are a linchpin to America’s long-term economic strength. Meaningful gains can only be achieved when business, government, and nonprofit sectors work hand in hand.

Identifying and scaling solutions to raise wages is the defining domestic issue of our generation.

Our goal is to fuel a movement that results in meaningful long-term wage gains for workers across the country. With this in mind and with support from Schmidt Futures, we moved to action last year calling on innovators, educators, policymakers, and employers to share ideas that would raise the annual wages of at least 100,000 workers by $10,000 or more before the end of 2021—a total impact of $1 billion. In this way, the challenge is intended to resemble a billion-dollar Silicon Valley “unicorn,” but focus squarely on growing the middle class.

Over 90 ideas were submitted. After review by thought leaders and subject matter experts, including JFF leadership, we selected seven finalists. These finalists will present their ideas in San Diego on April 8 at ASU GSV X Summit, a preeminent, international conference focused on education, workforce, and technology. We intend for the event to serve as a platform for finalists to get the exposure and traction needed to truly address the challenge of creating shared prosperity. The event will include live presentations, judging, and winner selection. Here are our finalists and the ideas they will present:

The Finalists

Carolina Fintech Hub

In Carolina Fintech Hub’s six-month program, participants receive over 700 hours of software programming instruction, soft skills training, and on-the-job experience, all while being paid a living wage. Upon completion, participants will transition to full-time employment with a sponsor organization.

Cell-Ed Works

Cell-Ed Works is an intelligent, end-to-end mobile solution that provides today’s workforce with access to personalized skill building, career coaching, and placement in higher paid jobs. It guides workers at scale in assessing their skills and potential to earn higher wages in their region.

Code Nation

Code Nation’s program provides technical training, professional access, and creative competency-building to underserved youth in tech hubs across the country. The program operates with the support of over 300 volunteer tech professionals.

Complete Florida PLAN Program

Complete Florida’s Prior Learning Assessment Navigation program aligns workforce-relevant skills with academics by creating individual e-portfolio upskilling pathways and a database of industry training courses assessed for college credit equivalency.

The Economic Mobility Exchange

EMPath transforms lives by helping families move out of poverty and providing other organizations with the tools to do the same systematically. EMPath’s Mobility Mentoring is a 1:1 coaching model that helps participants cope with the stress of poverty and create a pathway to a better future.

Penn Foster Employer Network

Penn Foster will build on its success engaging and educating roughly 200,000 learners per year by strengthening employer partnerships, particularly in verticals with significant hiring challenges, and directly supporting learners with innovative, mobile, and VR technology. is an interactive, on-demand data science and analytics career training platform. Through a learn-by-doing approach, personalized learning paths, real-time data assessments and AI-driven feedback, learners are able to immediately grasp and apply new skills at all stages of their career.

We hope you’ll join us at ASU GSV X Summit, where you can hear and, perhaps, help shape and accelerate the ideas that will bring the American dream within reach of more workers. The challenge is just the beginning, though. We plan to build a coalition of policymakers, corporate leaders, investors, and philanthropists to facilitate the refinement and implementation of winning ideas, and we invite you to be a part of it.


Related Content


ASU GSV Summit 2019

JFF is a sponsor of ASU GSV, one of the world’s leading workforce and education summits. Stop by booth 220 to say hello and join us as we showcase some of the organizations and exciting…

April 8 - April 10, 2019

$1B Wage Gain Challenge Judges

Addressing persistent wage stagnation requires fresh thinking. This challenge was designed to surface and support innovative ideas that have the best chance of moving the needle and meaningfully impacting workers’ lives through wage gain. At…

March 8, 2019