NSF Kicks Off Final Phase of Workforce Reskilling App Competition

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The Career Compass Challenge aims to build an app that matches feds to the tech jobs based on their current skills and interests.

The National Science Foundation kicked off the second stage of a prize competition to build an app that matches government employees to new careers in tech.

The foundation launched the Career Compass Challenge last year in an effort to get feds thinking about how their current skills and interests fit into an increasingly tech-driven job market.

Through the program, NSF plans to develop an app that helps people find the tech roles that suit them best and understand what steps to take to get them there. The idea is that employees would use the app to map their career path as emerging technologies like automation and artificial intelligence shake up the workforce.

In the first phase of the competition, teams submitted white papers on tools that would support continuous workforce reskilling and career mobility, and the top five entries each received a $5,000 cash prize. In the second phase, which kicked off April 15, those five teams will build working prototypes of their ideas. The group with the best app will win $75,000.

Submissions for part two are due July 15, and the winner will be announced Aug. 31.

With technology evolving at such a rapid pace, it’s difficult to predict what jobs and skills will be most in demand in the decades ahead. The federal workforce will need to constantly adapt to the changing landscape, and NSF Chief Information Officer Dorothy Aronson wants the competition to galvanize agencies into preparing employees for that future.

“It’s our fear of that change that’s really holding us back,” Aronson told Nextgov in November when the challenge kicked off. “If we … understand and embrace that [change], then I think that we will build a better future for ourselves.”

While the government is largely struggling to bring fresh faces into its tech workforce, federal leaders are piloting a handful of programs to reskill current employees for jobs in tech. The White House just welcomed 30 feds into the inaugural class of the Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy, and the Office of Management and Budget plans to launch another three government tech training programs by the end of the year.