Developers to Compete for $225K in Prizes for Best Mobile Vocational Advice App

Editorial Intern

By guest blogger Leo Doran

The Department of Education and Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative have partnered in launching a competition to find the most effective mobile app in providing students with personalized information about vocational skill programs and career outlooks.

Speaking to a Champion of Change Event in June, Michelle Obama challenged educators, philanthropists and industry executives with a call to action: “I want you to help our students see which jobs are in high demand in their communities. I want you to help them see which programs give them the skills that they need.  And I also want you to help them figure out how much all of this costs and what their future earning power might be in that given field.”

A growing consensus of experts agree with the First Lady, as many have pushed for a stronger emphasis on vocational education in response to the realities of today’s economy.

However, a public high school system largely designed to serve as a conduit to traditional four-year colleges, and what some see as a residual prejudice against blue-collar work has led to a lack of participation in career and technical education programs by young people who would likely be best served such options. The high national ratio of students to guidance counselors of 477:1, has compounded the problem by limiting the flow of information to students about local vocational training programs.

The deadline for the first round of submissions is December 7, at which point a panel of judges will select five finalists who will each receive $25,000 in prize money.

The submissions will be evaluated on a variety of criteria including the comprehensiveness of the programs included, and the apps’ accessibility to a broad array of groups including students with disabilities, English learners, and students in career and technical education programs.

Once selected, the five finalists will be able to refine their entries through a “Virtual Accelerator Phase” which will include support from IBM and Microsoft.  The final winner will be announced at some point in the summer of 2016, and will receive the remaining $100,000 in reward money, in addition to further prizes from IBM and Microsoft.

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