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XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling offers $5M to boost innovations in job training

Job training
XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling aims to reinvent job training methods. (Bigstock Photo / Rido81)

The nonprofit organization known as XPRIZE has been in charge of tech competitions focusing on far-out frontiers such as space travel and computerized avatars, but its latest contest hits closer to home: XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling is offering $5 million in prizes for innovations that could revolutionize job training for under-resourced communities.

The 30-month competition, sponsored by a nonprofit venture philanthropy organization called New Profit, kicks off today — just as the national emergency declared due to the coronavirus outbreak is passing the 100-day mark.

“On the 100th day of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we launched one of our most important competitions to date,” XPRIZE CEO Anousheh Ansari, who helped bankroll the first XPRIZE more than a decade and a half ago, said today in a news release. “We’re in an unprecedented time, culturally and economically, and out of a sense of urgency, we advanced the launch of XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competition.”

New methods to teach new job skills will be especially important for the millions of people who are being displaced due to the pandemic’s economic effects, and due to the rapid rise of automation and AI. Underserved communities, including African-Americans and Latinos, are being hit particularly hard.

XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling will be part of New Profit’s broader Future of Work Grand Challenge, an effort designed to help prepare 12 million Americans from underinvested communities for workforce success by 2025. The effort also includes the Reimagining Pathways to Employment in the U.S. Challenge, announced last month during Solve at MIT 2020.

“We are focused on building a breakthrough portfolio to take on entrenched systemic challenges in America, particularly by driving resources and support to black, indigenous and Latinx social entrepreneurs who have unique proximity to solutions,” said Angela Jackson, a partner at New Profit who co-leads the Future of Work Initiative and designed the Grand Challenge.

“XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling will help identify and accelerate solutions created by and for communities most impacted by centuries of unfair policies and practices,” Jackson said.

New Profit’s Future of Work Initiative is funded by Strada Education Network and the Walmart Foundation.

XPRIZE is putting out the call for teams to develop new ways to reskill, train and retain workers in a range of occupations. The goal is to have 40 percent of the teams made up of people of color.

Teams must prove that their reskilling techniques can be accomplished in half the time required for current techniques, in an affordable, accessible and collaborative manner. Retraining will focus on more than 80 occupations that are growing at rates faster than the national average, require only a high school diploma or post-secondary certificate, and pay above the living wage.

The winning team will have to leverage novel solutions to train 500 individuals in 60 days or less at no entry cost, place as many of those individuals as possible in new jobs within 60 days, ensure job retention of at least 90 days, and demonstrate exponential adoption by going on to deploy its training solutions for 5,000 individuals in three industries.

A panel of judges will assess the results in late 2022 and announce the winners in early 2023.

The top team will receive $1.5 million, with the second- and third-place teams sharing another $500,000. An additional $3 million will be awarded along the way in the form of milestone incentives and prizes for semifinalists.

In the early days, XPRIZE focused on using competitions to accelerate technological progress in fields such as private-sector spaceflight or automotive fuel efficiency. Some of the more recent competitions have sharpened the emphasis on social issues — as seen, for example, in the Naveen & Anu Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE, the Global Learning XPRIZE and the recently announced $10 million Rainforest XPRIZE.

For details about XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, including competition guidelines and detailed timelines, check out the competition’s website.

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