Oct 25 2021

Tell us about your team…

Our Dignity of Work team is made up of a core group of workforce development professionals from three different WA organizations, Career Path Services, WholeStory and ANEW.  We are focused on rapidly reskilling participants from under-resourced backgrounds to begin promising long term careers in construction industry.  

Why are your team’s efforts important now, and how do you see them scaling up in the future?

The field testing phase (round 2) of the Rapid Reskilling XPRIZE competition has allowed our team to test out our theory of how to go about reskilling and placing participants on a large scale for one industry.  We have gained so many valuable insights and lessons through this phase of work, many of which will influence fundamental changes in the way that we recruit, enroll, engage participants to ensure the training and preparation they receive will allow them to stick in the construction field.  We are also imagining how these adaptations will be applicable to other occupations / industries.

How has the XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competition furthered your success? How has it changed you? 

We have been able to test our ideas about how to do this work on a meaningful scale, and we now have knowledge of what can and cannot work going forward even on a modest scale.  Going into round 3 we anticipate significant changes to our training model to ensure we are able to serve our participants not only for careers in construction industry, but other fields as well.

How is your solution tailored to reskill workers in the pandemic? What have been the unique challenges or benefits of launching your solution during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

We thought that by having a fully online training solution, that it would be well suited to support learners working through the pandemic.  We underestimated the significance of barriers that the majority of our learners faced to be able to access our technology, and to carve out valuable space/time to focus on our training curriculum during the pandemic (or likely during even "normal" times).  The majority of our participants did not have time to engage full time in training, because they were juggling multiple other responsibilities.  Many caring for children or family members, many working part or full time in menial wage jobs, many lacking the basic skills to utilize the technology platforms, or the discipline to maintain progress in a self paced independent course.  I don't believe that these are unique challenges for our solution, but are likely broad realities of the segment of the population we are hoping to reach with our solutions, to help lift marginalized individuals and families out of poverty through jobs and careers with family sustaining wages.

The benefit of our solution and team launching our solution during the pandemic is that we've tested it under some of the most challenging conditions imaginable, and have garnered important insights that will ensure we are able to succeed in maintaining more active engagement of participants on a larger scale with our new model that we will deploy during round 3.

What are you looking forward to in the next phase of the competition as a Semifinalist? 

We are excited about the chance to evolve our training solution based on lessons learned during round 2 for construction industry, especially as the new infrastructure bill is likely to fuel greater demand for construction workers across the country than ever before.  Additionally, we are already thinking about how our model can be adapted for new occupational groups / industries, and scaled to a much larger geographic scale nationally.

Lastly, outside of your work, what aspect of the future of work excites you right now?

It is such a fascinating time to be involved in workforce development domestically and internationally.  Over many years, I have focused on demographic trends internationally, and concepts like "the youth bulge" which predicted that dramatic demographic shifts toward younger populations and stagnant economies across the developing world, together with increasing automation and AI which eliminate blue collar jobs could lead to a lost generation and potentially massive unrest in the world.  The reality today in the US and in other wealthier countries with stagnating / aging populations and shrinking workforces stands in stark contrast to those dynamics internationally.

At a time when we are faced with other mega-challenges, like climate crisis, racial injustice, economic inequality, these demographic trends and the misalignment of labor capabilities / industry skill demands could either be a force multiplier confounding the challenges ahead.  OR if we can find the right formulas for bridging the skills gap at scale, could be a key part of the solution to these crises not just in our country, but globally.

We are excited about the future of work, because while on the surface the idea of training workers may seem a bit mundane, we believe that these efforts are actually at the heart of solving these bigger seemingly intractable problems.

Learn more the rest of the XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling semifinalist teams in the race to the finish here.