About the challenge

Apprenticeships expand career opportunities, but many adult learners face barriers to accessing them. Pre-apprenticeships break down these barriers by helping adults enter, prepare for, and succeed in apprenticeships and other industry roles.

The Rethink Adult Ed Challenge invited AEFLA-funded adult education providers to design innovative and high-quality pre-apprenticeship programs — in any industry, anywhere in the United States.

Prize winners

The U.S. Department of Education announced the winners of the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge on September 9, 2021. The five winners will receive a share of the $750,000 prize pool.


The challenge was conducted in two stages. During Stage 1, all eligible organizations were invited to submit a preliminary design of a pre-apprenticeship program. Ninety-five finalists were selected to progress to the Stage 2 virtual accelerator. Following scoring by a review panel and judging panel, five prize winners were selected.

Stage 1: Open submissions

September 24 - November 25, 2020

Finalists announced

January 2021

Stage 2: Virtual accelerator

February - June 2021

Winners announced

September 2021


Total prize pool


In Stage 2, finalists participated in a virtual accelerator, which provided resources and support from subject matter experts to help them refine their program designs. The grand-prize winner received $250,000, the first runner-up received $200,000, and three runners-up received $100,000.

Pre-apprenticeship course

Following the challenge, the U.S. Department of Education launched a self-paced online learning course via LINCS. This course is designed to help adult education providers develop new pre-apprenticeships, as well as support providers who are implementing similar integrated education and training programs.