A new federal competition program with $2.5M in prizes aims to support schools connecting students with opportunities to get college credit, apprenticeships and industry credentials.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Career Z Challenge is a $2.5 million multi-phase federal prize competition managed by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. The prize competition seeks innovative ideas to expand work-based learning opportunities for America’s high school students.
The Career Z Challenge is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success initiative supported by the federal Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce. Department of Education blog explains the competition:
The Department invites eligible entrants to engage collaborative ecosystems of educators, businesses, industries, workforce professionals, and community stakeholders to provide students interconnected and expansive career development opportunities and experiences across grades 9 – 12.
The lessons learned from this challenge will inform resources and models that will foster growth and expansion of high-quality, sustainable work-based learning experiences for students nationwide.
Selected semi-finalists and finalists will be eligible to receive targeted technical assistance and a portion of the $2.5 million prize pool. Available technical assistance includes:
- professional development support;
- webinars and trainings;
- networking with a community of peers; and
- Engage students across grades 9-12 in meaningful career exploration, development, and preparation by providing opportunities that are:
- Inclusive and accessible
- Interconnected and expansive
Applying and key dates
The challenge will be conducted in three phases beginning in March 2023 and ending in July 2025. Submission will open on April 12, 2023 @ 8 AM (ET) and close on June 7, 2023 @ 6 PM (ET).
Phase 1: Registration, Submission, and Selection (March – August 2023): The Department invites eligible entrants to submit innovative ideas to create, enhance and/or expand high-quality WBL opportunities for students, particularly for in-demand career sectors and industries. See the Official Rules, Terms, and Conditions for eligibility requirements. Entrants must demonstrate how they plan to engage collaborative, sustainable ecosystems of educators, business and industry, workforce professionals, and community stakeholders to provide students interconnected and expansive career development opportunities and experiences across grades 9 – 12. Up to 100 semi-finalists will be selected to participate in Phase 2 of the Challenge. The Department intends to fund two types of submissions: Novice: Create a new WBL Ecosystem or Expander: Enhance an existing WBL Ecosystem. Entrants will self-select either Novice or Expander in their submission. Career Z Challenge Phase 1 submissions are due May 24, 2023.
Phase 1: Registration, Submission & Selection (March – August 2023)
- Registration Period Opens: March 16, 2023 @ 8 AM (ET)
- Information Session: April 4, 2023 @ 2 PM (ET) Click here for session recording; Passcode: UcK2?A#4
- Registration Period Ends: April 11, 2023 @ 6 PM (ET)
- Submission Period Opens: April 12, 2023 @ 8 AM (ET)
- Information Session: May 4, 2023 @ 2 PM (ET) Click here for session recording; Passcode: 14A3@d5w
- Submission Deadline: June 7, 2023 @ 6 PM (ET)
- Semi-Finalist Announcement: August 2023
Phase 2: Implementation and Results (September 2023 – July 2024): During Phase 2, semi-finalists will receive technical assistance conducted by Kaptivate and overseen by the Department to support the development, implementation, and/or expansion of their WBL Ecosystem. Semi-finalists will participate in a community of practice (CoP) and have access to webinars, toolkits, mentorship, online collaboration space, resources, and support services. As Phase 2 nears its conclusion, semi-finalists will be encouraged to seek external resources to maintain their participation in the WBL CoP to promote continued networking and sustainability. At the end of Phase 2, up to 10 finalists will be selected to participate in Phase 3 of the Career Z Challenge.
Phase 2: Implementation & Results (September 2023 – August 2024)
- Technical Assistance Starts: September 2023
- Technical Assistance Ends: May 2024
- Submission Period Opens: June 2024
- Submission Deadline: June 2024
- Finalist Announcement: August 2024
Phase 3: Acceleration and Results (August 2024 – July 2025):At the onset of Phase 3, in addition to the CoP, finalists will be immersed into an accelerator—an intensified segment where finalists will play an active and collaborative role in the Phase 3 design. Finalists will use the lessons learned, noteworthy practices, and problem-solving methods of Phase 2 to inform the execution of the accelerator and intensify its effectiveness. During Phase 3, finalists will receive enhanced and tailored technical assistance, coordinated by Kaptivate, to accelerate the expansion and sustainability of their WBL Ecosystem. This intensified technical assistance will include one-on-one coaching, online collaboration space, resources, and in-person or virtual events. At the end of Phase 3, finalists will submit a report on the Career Z Challenge website, hosted on Challenge.Gov, detailing their accelerated implementation, project results, and sustainability plan.
Phase 3: Acceleration & Results (September 2024 – August 2025)
- Technical Assistance Starts: September 2024
- Technical Assistance Ends: May 2025
- Submission Period Opens: May 2025
- Submission Deadline: June 2025
- Final Awards Announcement: Summer 2025