The following questions and answers originated from the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge virtual information session on October 15, 2020. These FAQs and the session recording are intended for informational purposes only, and all information presented here is superseded by the challenge rules, terms and conditions.
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What is the eligibility criteria to participate? Are entrants required to receive AEFLA funding during both Stage 1 and Stage 2 to be eligible?
To be eligible, an entrant must be an eligible provider, as defined in section 203(5) of WIOA, and receiving funding under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AELFA) for the duration of the challenge. Please refer to the eligibility section in the rules, terms, and conditions for more detail.
My organization doesn’t receive AELFA funding; can we partner with an eligible entrant and enter as a team?
Yes. Eligible providers, as identified in the rules, terms, and conditions, may choose to partner with any organization they believe would be most effective in advancing their pre-apprenticeship design. Partnering organizations do not need to also be eligible entrants; however, the organization listed in the “Entrant profile” of the Stage 1 submission form is required to be an eligible provider.
Please note: the eligible entrant listed in the “Entrant profile” would receive any awarded prize funds and would be responsible for any allocation of those funds.
How will I know whether my organization receives AELFA funding?
If you are unsure whether your organization is receiving funding under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AELFA), please check with your organization’s grants office, or contact the respective state office that administers the AEFLA grant.
If my organization works with students who receive funding under WIOA, are we also considered an AEFLA funding recipient?
No, your organization must be receiving funding under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AELFA). Ineligible organizations are still welcome to partner with eligible providers to enter this challenge.
If a consortium is the recipient of AEFLA funding, does that complete consortium need to apply for this or can a similar group of members form and apply?
The challenge rules, terms, and conditions do not specify whether an AEFLA consortium must apply as a whole or if a smaller group of consortium members can apply. Please work with your consortium and the respective state office that administers the AEFLA grant to determine the preferred approach.
I would like to find AEFLA-funded providers near me. How can I find out which organizations receive AELFA funding?
Please contact the state office that administers the AEFLA grant for information about AEFLA-funded organizations in your state.
Who in my state needs to give approval for my organization to participate in the challenge?
Entrants are required to get written verification of AEFLA funding from their State Director of Adult Education or their State Director’s designee. Entrants can use the state approval form on the Stage 1 submission page or attach another form of written confirmation, such as an email. Regardless of format, the document should confirm that the entrant receives AEFLA funding and has permission to participate in the challenge.
How does the challenge define the term “pre-apprenticeship”?
The challenge defines a “pre-apprenticeship program” as a program that supports individuals in developing the skills and knowledge they need to gain entry to and succeed in apprenticeship programs. Please refer to the definitions section of the rules, terms, and conditions.
What are the components of a quality pre-apprenticeship program?
High-quality pre-apprenticeship programs align to industry demand, set clear pathways into apprenticeships and other industry roles, and provide support services for their participants. Please refer to the award selection criteria section of the rules, terms, and conditions to see how programs will be evaluated.
Can a pre-apprenticeship program lead directly into a job rather than an apprenticeship?
Pre-apprenticeship programs lead into many opportunities, including both apprenticeships and other industry roles. Pre-apprenticeships should be designed to lead into an apprenticeship; the connection to apprenticeships distinguish pre-apprenticeships from other adult education or workforce readiness programs. However, pre-apprenticeships may also lead into other roles with opportunities for progression.
Does the pre-apprenticeship program have to align to a Registered Apprenticeship or Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program?
No, programs can be designed to lead into any kind of apprenticeship — including Registered Apprenticeships, Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs, and other apprenticeships. Programs may also be designed to lead into other industry roles with opportunities for progression.
How does the challenge define “adult”?
The challenge uses the definition of “eligible individual” from section 203(4) of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA describes an “eligible individual” as someone who:
- Has attained 16 years of age.
- Is not enrolled or required to be enrolled in secondary school under State law.
- Is basic skills deficient; does not have a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent, and has not achieved an equivalent level of education; or is an English language learner.
What are the requirements for the Stage 1 submission?
Please refer to the Stage 1 submission form on the challenge website to see what is required. Word counts are specified where applicable. As part of their submission, each entrant is also required to include verification from their state that their organization currently receives funding under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and has permission to participate in the challenge.
Can entrants submit more than one Stage 1 submission?
Yes, entrants are welcome to submit more than one submission. All submissions will be evaluated separately. Please refer to the submission review information section in the rules, terms, and conditions for more information about the review and selection process. All submissions will be evaluated against the same Stage 1 selection criteria.
Does the proposed pre-apprenticeship need to be limited to just one industry?
No, programs can be designed to target more than one industry or a hybrid of industries. If this applies to you, please select “Other” on the submission form question about industries and specify the relevant industries your program will serve. Entrants should submit an application that they believe is the strongest representation of their program relative to the published selection criteria.
Can the program be designed to prepare adults for more than one apprenticeship?
Yes, programs can be designed to lead into more than one apprenticeship. Entrants should submit an application that they believe is the strongest representation of their program relative to the published selection criteria.
Can our Stage 1 preliminary design be based on an existing adult education program?
Entrants may start from different points, but all submissions will be assessed on whether the proposed program meets the requirements of a pre-apprenticeship. All entries will be evaluated against the same Stage 1 selection criteria.
Can existing pre-apprenticeship programs submit a proposal to expand capacity, or is the challenge only open to new programs?
Yes, providers that currently run pre-apprenticeships are welcome to apply. Please review the selection criteria and ensure your submission includes the rationale for your program design, including how the program would scale and why. All entries will be evaluated against the same Stage 1 selection criteria.
Are there requirements about the size of the pre-apprenticeship program?
There are no specific requirements, and we expect diversity of program size across entrants and finalists. Please review the Stage 1 selection criteria and ensure your submission includes the rationale for your program design, including the size of the program.
The criteria mentions “local or national need.” Is there an emphasis on programs providing services at a larger scale?
The challenge does not place an emphasis on programs providing services at a larger scale. Please review the Stage 1 selection criteria and ensure your submission includes the rationale for your proposed program scale, with reference to both the learner population and local or national demand.
Are programs required to provide college credits or any specific credentials or certifications as part of the pre-apprenticeship?
Programs are not required to provide college credit or incorporate any specific credentials or certifications. However, program designs should reflect the needs and expectations of the entrant’s target learners, industry, and partners. Please review the selection criteria and ensure your submission includes the rationale for your program design, including any specific credits, credentials, or certifications your program may offer.
Is this challenge open to programs for persons with disabilities?
Yes, programs may be designed for any adult learners. For Stage 1, entrants are expected to identify their target learners and outline their specific needs.
What are the time-commitment expectations for the accelerator process? If selected, how many staff hours should we expect to devote to this?
The virtual accelerator will run from February to June 2021. Finalists can expect to commit several hours to the accelerator each week. The accelerator will be self-paced and all materials will be accessible online.
What additional resources are provided for participants in the challenge?
The resources page on the challenge website contains several links that provide an overview of pre-apprenticeships, why they are important, and what makes programs effective. In Stage 2, finalists will participate in a virtual accelerator, where they will have access to additional resources and support — including activities and webinars with subject matter experts — to help them design their programs.
Are finalists required to submit a program proposal at the end of Stage 2?
Finalists will be encouraged, but not required, to submit a program proposal at the end of Stage 2. Only finalists that submit a Stage 2 submission will be considered for the challenge’s prize pool awards.
How will finalists be determined at the end of Stage 1?
In Stage 1, an independent review panel will review all submissions using the Stage 1 selection criteria. All review panelists will have expertise relevant to the selection criteria. Please refer to the submission review information in the rules, terms, and conditions for more details.
How will winners be determined at the end of Stage 2?
Depending on the volume of submissions in Stage 2, an independent review panel may conduct a preliminary review of the submissions. The submissions with the highest scores assigned by the independent review panel will then be scored by independent judges, based on the quality of each entry, according to the Stage 2 selection criteria. At least 20, but no more than 30, of the highest-scoring submissions will advance for scoring by the independent judges. Using the Stage 2 selection criteria, judges will recommend one finalist to be selected as the grand-prize winner and up to five finalists to be selected as runners-up. Please refer to the submission review information in the rules, terms, and conditions for more details.
How would the prize pool be allocated?
From the pool of submissions received in Stage 2, judges will recommend one finalist be selected as the grand-prize winner, and up to five finalists to be selected as runners-up. The U.S. Department of Education will review the recommendations of the judges and make final selection decisions as described in the Stage 2 selection criteria. The total prize pool for the challenge is $750,000. Following the judging of Stage 2 submissions, a grand-prize winner will be awarded $250,000 and up to five runners-up will receive at least $100,000 each. Please refer to the prizes section in the rules, terms, and conditions.
How does this challenge differ from a grant? What is the rationale for the challenge format instead of a traditional grant?
According to challenge.gov, a challenge (also referred to as “prize challenge,” “competition,” “prize competition,” “incentive prize” or any combination thereof) allows the public to solve problems presented by federal agencies and receive awards for the best solutions. This boils down to three steps:
- Agency announces a problem to the public.
- Participants create and submit solutions to the problem.
- Agency evaluates solutions and awards prizes to the best ones.
This process may sound similar to grants or contracts, but challenges differ in small and significant ways. In grants and contracts, an agency receives proposals to do work, chooses one and then pays the monetary award incrementally as the work is done. In challenges, an agency generally selects winner(s) after assessing work that has been completed. In more complex, multiphase challenges, phase winners may be selected progressively as development stages are completed.
Unlike contracts in particular, which provide detailed and comprehensive specifications of the work that needs to be done, challenges define a smaller set of requirements, which allows participants to bring more of their own creativity to solutions. This can be advantageous when a problem can be solved many different ways, including ways that the agency is not even aware of. The open-ended approach can entice participation from those who may not have direct expertise in the problem subject matter area but can lend expertise from their diverse backgrounds.
Challenges can serve multiple goals beyond sourcing solutions to problems, including:
- Signal interest in an area the agency thinks markets should be doing more to serve.
- Reach wide communities of experts.
- Deliver messages to the public in a fun, interactive way.
- Generate interest in new services, data, or technologies the agency provides.
- Develop public buy-in for agency initiatives.
These are just a few of the many benefits that challenges provide.
How can prize money be used?
Prize money may be used by awardees to design and implement their pre-apprenticeship programs. The Department encourages awardees to use any remaining prize funds for activities that further enhance the quality and outcomes of adult education and literacy activities and programs nationwide, and increase the effectiveness, and improve the quality, of adult education and literacy activities, including developing and promoting career pathways for eligible individuals
What are the reporting requirements related to the expenditure of prize money?
The funds awarded through this innovation challenge are not subject to the same federal reporting requirements as funds awarded through grant programs. Prize winners should comply with their regular documentation procedures for audit purposes and for any local or state reporting requirements.
How will prize money be sent to the prize winners?
Any potential prizes awarded under this challenge will be paid by electronic funds transfer. Award recipients will be responsible for any applicable local, state, and federal taxes and reporting that may be required under applicable tax laws. Any potential prizes will be paid by electronic funds transfer to the organization listed in the “entrant profile” on the Stage 2 submission. This entity is responsible for any further distribution of prize funds to other team members. Please refer to the prizes section of the rules, terms, and conditions.
If we are awarded prize money through this challenge, is there a risk that it would supplant other federal funding we receive?
Prize funds would not supplant other federal funds that an awardee may receive.
Can you share an example of a program that has been funded previously?
This is an entirely new challenge, and no providers have previously received funding through this challenge. Please visit Ed Prizes to find out more about previous open innovation challenges run by the U.S. Department of Education.
What is the role of a team lead?
The team lead serves as the primary point of contact for the challenge and will be responsible for submitting the entrant’s program proposal via Luminary Lightbox. The team lead must work for an eligible provider.
How does this challenge connect to adult literacy?
The Rethink Adult Ed Challenge launch was one of several initiatives announced or recognized during Adult Education and Family Literacy Week in support of the work and needs of eligible individuals as defined by WIOA section 203(4).
Literacy is one of the many skills a pre-apprenticeship program may cover. Programs typically incorporate a mix of academic and workplace skills to prepare adult learners to successfully transition into an apprenticeship or other industry roles.
In Stage 1, entrants should identify appropriate adult education and literacy activities needed to help adult learners prepare for apprenticeships or other industry roles with opportunities for progression. In Stage 2, entrants should identify how they will deliver adult education and literacy activities that will equip participants with the necessary academic, occupational, and workplace skills and credentials needed to enter apprenticeships or other industry roles with opportunities for progression.
My organization doesn’t currently receive AEFLA funding. How can we find more information about this funding opportunity?
Please contact your state office that administers the AEFLA grant for information about AEFLA-funded opportunities in your state.
How can we find out more information about the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge?
For questions regarding the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information about the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, please contact Carolyn Lampila: email@example.com.
You can also sign up for the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge newsletter to receive challenge news and updates.