Ignite - Program

Future of Work Challenge

In February 2018, NewSchools launched the NewSchools Ignite Future of Work Challenge – open to entrepreneurs developing technology-enabled learning experiences, instructional content, learning diagnostics, administrative tools, and other products that support middle and high school students’ development of skills and knowledge that will help them succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.

Meet the Future of Work Challenge winners!

Why Future of Work?

Education and the future of work

Most of the jobs that will be available by 2030 don’t yet exist, and will require advanced skills, training, and a commitment to lifelong learning. A profound shift in educational opportunities is needed in order to ensure that these trends do not exacerbate existing gaps in employability, income, and ultimately the ability to lead happy and healthy lives. Across the country each year, millions of students are working to develop academic and social skills that will prepare them for life after high school. The dreams and plans of these young adults are as diverse as the students themselves, yet they share in common a goal to create the life they want – full of choices, connection, meaning, and economic stability. In addition to support from family and community members, formal and informal learning opportunities play a crucial role in ensuring that students can finish high school prepared and inspired to achieve these aspirations.
Read more about the importance of preparing students for the future of work.

Critical student needs: How technology can help young people prepare for the future of work

Before the launch of the Future of Work Challenge, we conducted market research – including conversations with students, educators, and researchers from across the country – to learn more about students’ experience of the transition from high school to college and careers. Based on this research, we believe there is an urgent opportunity to strengthen the connection between school and work so that all students can cultivate knowledge and skills that will unlock the jobs of tomorrow. The most promising innovations will support emerging efforts in schools and districts to empower students by:

  • Weaving exploration of college and career pathways into core academic experiences;
  • Enabling experiential learning that authentically connects school and work;
  • Increasing access to college and career guidance, mentorship, and counseling resources; and
  • Creating new opportunities to earn and utilize credits, badges, and other signals of competence and achievement.

Read more about how technology can address critical needs related to the future of work.

Spurring innovation in education technology

Our virtual accelerator program offers an opportunity for the most promising companies and nonprofit organizations working in this space to learn, connect and grow together. In addition to grant funding, challenge winners receive feedback and hands-on support from best-in-class entrepreneurs, educators, researchers and other experts.
Read more about the NewSchools Ignite virtual accelerator program.

Selection Criteria

We are looking for companies and nonprofit organizations developing technology-enabled products that:

  • Address one or more of the critical student needs identified by educators;
  • Support teachers’, communities and/or parents’ roles in student learning;
  • Are accessible and usable by a wide range of children – especially students from underserved populations;
  • Support teachers’ delivery of tailored instruction;
  • Have potential for wide distribution and to generate sustainable revenue; and
  • Align with NewSchools’ diligence and investment criteria.

Timeline

  • Application open: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
  • Application due: Sunday, March 18, 2018
  • Semi-finalist interviews (virtual): Monday, April 2 – Thursday, April 12, 2018
  • Challenge winners notified by: Monday, April 23, 2018
  • Opening convening + NewSchools Summit 2018 (SF Bay Area): Monday, May 7 – Wednesday, May 9, 2018
  • Accelerator program (virtual): May 2018 – May 2019
  • Closing convening + NewSchools Summit 2019 (SF Bay Area): May 2019 (exact dates TBD)

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Education and the future of work

Most of the jobs that will be available by 2030 don’t yet exist, and will require advanced skills, training, and a commitment to lifelong learning. A profound shift in educational opportunities is needed in order to ensure that these trends do not exacerbate existing gaps in employability, income, and ultimately the ability to lead happy and healthy lives. Across the country each year, millions of students are working to develop academic and social skills that will prepare them for life after high school. The dreams and plans of these young adults are as diverse as the students themselves, yet they share in common a goal to create the life they want – full of choices, connection, meaning, and economic stability. In addition to support from family and community members, formal and informal learning opportunities play a crucial role in ensuring that students can finish high school prepared and inspired to achieve these aspirations.

The goals of public education are not purely economic, but there is a clear connection between access to high-quality learning opportunities, academic performance, and a path toward employment that is both personally fulfilling and financially sustainable. In addition to economic benefits, connecting learning to life after high school can reinforce students’ agency and resiliency as they transition into adulthood. However, our public education system is currently struggling to support many students with the information and resources required to prepare them for the future of work. It is not just that the guidance counseling office is understaffed and facing increased demand around emotional well-being, it is also a recognition that students need more than an annual career expo to inspire and motivate a focus on life after high school. In response, many district and school leaders are rethinking the use of time, human capital, budgets, and technology to support systemic changes and improve outcomes for all students.

Postsecondary education is an important part of the preparation for many jobs, yet many students finish high school socially and academically unprepared for college. Even when students are adequately prepared, issues related to quality, cost, and student debt have caused many families to question their return on investment. At the same time, there is a justified fear that straying from the goal of “college for all” may result in certain students being “tracked” toward learning opportunities that are lower quality, ultimately reinforcing employment-related inequities. Nevertheless, there is evidence that many students could benefit from a broadened definition of “college success”: For example, there are more than 30 million jobs with an average annual income of $55,000 that can be accessed by community college graduates.

There are some early signals of approaches that educators and employers may use to address some of these challenges. Many high schools are offering dual degrees, which allow students to simultaneously work toward both a high school diploma and an associate degree. Some employers have signaled a willingness to support alternative credentialing pathways that recognize a wider range of student accomplishments. Meanwhile, career and technical education (CTE), which is designed to prepare students “for a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers,” will also undoubtedly play a crucial role in preparing many students for the future of work. Congress is currently considering legislation to bring more CTE funding and decision-making power to state governments, while a growing number of states are working together to connect career education to local and regional employment opportunities.

The Future of Work Challenge is open to entrepreneurs building technology-enabled learning experiences, instructional content, learning diagnostics, administrative tools, and other digital products that support middle and high school students’ development of skills and knowledge that will help them succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. Special consideration will be given to tools that are accessible and usable by students from low-income households, Black and Latino students, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and students from rural areas – as well as products aligned with relevant research on learning and advances in mobile and social technologies.

* * *

Critical student needs: How technology can help young people prepare for the future of work

Before the launch of the Future of Work Challenge, we conducted market research – including conversations with students, educators, and researchers from across the country – to learn more about students’ experience of the transition from high school to college and careers. Based on this research, we believe there is an urgent opportunity to strengthen the connection between school and work so that all students can cultivate knowledge and skills that will unlock the jobs of tomorrow. The most promising innovations will support emerging efforts in schools and districts to empower students by:

  • Weaving exploration of college and career pathways into core academic experiences;
  • Enabling experiential learning that authentically connects school and work;
  • Increasing access to college and career guidance, mentorship, and counseling resources; and
  • Creating new opportunities to earn and utilize credits, badges, and other signals of competence and achievement.

We provide additional information on each of the critical student needs in the sections below.

Weaving exploration of college and career pathways into core academic experiences

Students and educators both expressed a desire for increased support as students identify, explore, and navigate personalized pathways toward their college and career goals. One important way for technology to make an impact is by enabling the integration of future of work-related content into core learning experiences, linking academic content with college and work success. By facilitating exploration of practical topics like applying to college, selecting a job training program, calculating a wage-to-debt ratio, or assessing the ROI of an educational investment, technology can increase access to information and positively impact how young people are making important college and career decisions.

Enabling experiential learning that authentically connects school and work

Many educators emphasized the importance of future of work-related learning opportunities that are grounded in students’ lived experiences. This includes support for “work-based learning” opportunities like internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, field trips, and community service that are aligned with the academic curriculum. In addition to long-term economic benefits, real world application can support students’ mastery of academic and social skills that are crucial for success in life after high school.

Increasing access to college and career guidance, mentorship, and counseling resources

Many students shared that face-to-face time with college and career planning experts is limited, and expressed interest in technology that can provide increased access to these resources. In addition to streamlining communication, technology can help guidance counselors and other professionals personalize advice and feedback across a relatively large group of students with diverse interests and needs. In addition to educators, many students reported that siblings and friends act as important sources of information and advice about college and career options. There is interest in additional tools that connect students to peers and mentors with relevant academic and professional experiences. Ultimately, such interactions can also support students’ decision-making, strengthening connections within communities by facilitating the exchange of social and cultural capital.

Creating new opportunities to earn and utilize credits, badges, and other signals of competence and achievement

Educators also reported a growing interest in systems to support students as they attain, accelerate, and display an array of credentials that can be used to signal their knowledge and skills across a diverse range of educational and employment contexts. As the number and type of postsecondary learning opportunities continue to grow, there is a need to help students identify, compare, and take advantage of high-quality learning pathways. Technology can also support students as they organize and share these achievements, including through digital portfolios that feature creative and technical accomplishments. By explicitly linking this learning with employability and income, technology can help students save time and money as they make progress toward their goals.

Join the Conversation

Do you have ideas about how technology can support learning? Tweet (@nsvf) using the hashtag #NewSchoolsIgnite, or sign up to be notified about new resources or opportunities to engage.

Meet the Future of Work Challenge winners!

FAQ EXPAND ALL SHRINK ALL

What is the focus of NewSchools Ignite?

NewSchools Ignite is an initiative of NewSchools’ Ed Tech team, focused on accelerating innovation in K-12 edtech market gaps. We select investment areas based on market research including input from a diverse group of educators and edtech decision-makers, then create opportunities for companies and nonprofits working in these areas to apply for funding as well as other support.

Who can apply? What are the criteria?

The NewSchools Ignite program is open to entrepreneurs working to develop engaging, technology-enabled learning experiences, assessments and other digital tools that support students’ academic and social development. To be eligible for funding, applicants must be working on projects that are aligned with NewSchools’ charitable purpose of transforming public education so that all children – especially those in underserved communities – have the opportunity to succeed.

We are looking for companies and nonprofits developing products that:

  • ignite students’ curiosity and facilitate deeper learning;
  • address one or more of the critical student needs identified by educators;
  • are accessible and usable by a wide range of children – especially underserved student populations;
  • are designed to help students take ownership of their own learning;
  • support teachers’ delivery of tailored instruction;
  • have potential to achieve wide distribution and generate sustainable revenue; and
  • align with the NewSchools’ diligence and investment criteria.
What company/product stage is this program designed to support?

The NewSchools Ignite virtual accelerator program is designed to support companies and organizations creating products across a wide developmental spectrum, ranging from early- to growth-stage. To be considered for funding, applicants must submit at least one product as part of their application (prototypes are accepted).

What is a “virtual accelerator program”?

While our program includes two in-person convenings, challenge winners do not need to re-locate to participate in other program elements. Our virtual accelerator program will last for approximately twelve months, featuring targeted content and feedback delivered via phone/video meetings, web-based presentations, and opportunities for online collaboration. Read more about our program.

What type of financial support will selected applicants receive?

In addition to participation in two in-person convenings and a twelve-month virtual accelerator program, challenge winners will receive grants ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 (depending on product stage).

Does NewSchools receive equity from participants?

All funds distributed to participants will take the form of grants. NewSchools will NOT request equity in exchange for participation.