Into the Unknown
If you’re reading this field guide, you already have the mindset of someone who is interested in looking beyond the status quo. Welcome. The world outside of “how we’ve always done business” can be a scary place, full of unknowns, risks, dead-ends, and shiny objects to lead you astray. It’s also a world full of rewards—if you set yourself up for success by taking intentional steps to prepare for your journey.
The goal of this field guide is to distill key lessons learned from the Future of Work Grand Challenge into immediately applicable strategies and to provide you, a leader in your community, with the frameworks and approaches that are required to build strong and enduring technology-enabled training partnerships for today, tomorrow, and the next decade.
This field guide won’t lead you through all of the unknowns, because the path toward building future-oriented partnerships is different for all organizations. However, we hope to provide you with tools you can use to identify partners, resources, and approaches that can help you blaze a trail that reflects your community’s unique needs and niche areas of opportunity.
As you continue through this guide, be aware that, while the lessons that we discuss were drawn from the specific context of the Grand Challenge, which focused the deployment of education and training technologies in workforce development initiatives in six states, the insights we highlight are applicable to varying types of technologies and partnerships across the workforce system.
The Future of Work Grand Challenge is a competition whose goal is to modernize the American workforce system and in the process help displaced and underemployed workers acquire the skills necessary for living-wage jobs. In the first phase of the competition, 10 early-stage education and training technology companies paired with workforce development boards in six cities across the country.
This effort to drive innovation in the public workforce system was built on the following strategic pillars:
- Leveraging the connections and strengths of the public workforce system, where one in 12 U.S. residents go to learn new skills
- Offering workforce boards incentives to partner with new and emerging industries, companies, and organizations
- Encouraging boards to integrate cutting-edge training technologies and models into their operations and then assess their effectiveness
The Grand Challenge implementation team is led by New Profit and consists of XPRIZE, MIT Solve, and Jobs for the Future (JFF). Since the Grand Challenge launched in early 2021, this team has been able to seed partnerships between community-based organizations and companies that offer tech-based training solutions and observe how these organizations built and iterated effective working relationships and strengthened those ties in highly challenging, unpredictable, and varied labor market environments amid a global pandemic. We selected six future-focused boards that are skilled at embracing new technologies and operations to build a better career navigation and employment experience for workers/learners in need of support. Many of the technology companies were unfamiliar with workforce boards and American Job Centers (AJC) at the start of the competition. However, while some of the partnerships were more successful than others, they all demonstrated creativity and resilience, as well as dedication in building new approaches to skill development.