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NSF Names Winners of Career Compass Challenge

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a vision for the federal workforce. In an ever-changing technological landscape, NSF wants to maintain quality work as the standard while also considering modernization; the agency wants to create the workforce of the 21st century.

To that end, NSF released a Career Compass Challenge on Nov. 9, 2018 and announced the first round winners on Friday. The challenge was necessitated by the evolving nature of work due to technological changes and the rapid pace of such changes. The challenge asked for bright ideas from innovative thinkers in government, industry and academia to help NSF employees adapt to changing workforce needs, develop skills to match needs and prepare for new situations.

“The way we in the federal government are working today does not really allow us as individuals to both support the current mission of our agencies and also prepare for and implement the changing nature of work,” Aronson said in an interview with GovLoop. “That’s because it’s happening so fast.”

The challenge led to close to 60 submissions centered on the idea of using technology for continuous workforce development, or on making education and lifelong learning a crucial part of federal employment — allowing for opportunities for mobility and advancement throughout a federal employee’s career.

The judges came from all over the federal government, including the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Defense Department (DoD). They selected five winners for part one of the challenge, which was based on white papers, and awarded them $5,000 each. Those interested in part two are encouraged to read winning concept papers as they think about prototyping a solution.  Part one participants may participate in part two, but are not expected to or required to. One winner will be selected for the part two prize, which is an award of $75,000, assuming there is a functional prototype that passes the judging.

Here are brief descriptions of the winning entries:

A GPS for Learning and Work

Dr. Peter Smith

Orkand Chair, Professor of Innovative Practices in Higher Education

The University of Maryland University College

This project focuses on a career development path with no beginning or end points. Instead, it will be case-based and use “diagnostics, content delivery, validation and recording of learning, and direct links that connect learning with college recognition and job requirements.” The system will allow for more people to have access to knowledge by bridging the gap between work requirements and academics so that the application of knowledge takes priority. Smith outlines the individual components of his solution and places it within the greater context of career transitions.

ACCESS: An Integrated Service Platform for Preparing Future Workforce

Dr. Zhe S. Chen, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine

Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience and Physiology

ACCESS, or Advanced Career Compass for Enhancing Skills to Successes, incorporates different services to provide a personalized career compass that uses machine learning to drive job recommendations and allow for continuous learning. ACCESS tackles job searching, career planning and skill acquisition. The ACCESS system allows for learning groups, skill recommendations, and integration with public sector workforce reskilling tools.

My Career Compass

The C2 Team:
C2 Technologies, Inc. and George Mason University (GMU)

The C2 team used a human-centered design approach to place themselves in the role of an NSF employee of 2030. They then developed a personalized learning environment (PLE) that operates on three levels:

Level 1: Personal Information Management. Coaches and teachers help users form a personal learning space by creating and managing content for personal productivity.

Level 2: Social Interaction and Collaboration. Users can communicate on the learning topic via the technology’s social learning and networking capabilities.

Level 3: Information Aggregation and Management. At this level, users apply the technology to synthesize the information received from levels one and two to reflect on their learning experience and customize their PLE around their learning goals.

E-TAG: Employee Training and Growth Through Electronic Games

April Edwards

The E-Tag online gaming platform was proposed to allow users to evaluate their skill sets through a fun and engaging medium. The games will vary in type and can reinforce fundamental skills while also assessing or helping build job-specific skills. The environment is also highly adaptable.

Career CHARTING (Career Help via Analysis, Recommendation and TrainING) App

Beverly P. Woolf and Andrew S. Lan, University of Massachusetts Amherst

The CHARTING app will help workers analyze their skills by evaluating their resumes and analyzing data gathered through a diagnostic. After the skill analysis phase comes the career path recommendation, which is based on an analysis of the job market landscape, and then a workforce retraining program, which contains courses that emphasize skills that are in demand.

Read more about the winning concepts on the submissions part of the NSF Career Compass Challenge website.

NSF will announce a webcast to delve deeper into the winning submissions of this part and further steps for part two of the challenge.

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