Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
XPRIZE, a nonprofit organization that holds grand competitions to inspire innovation, announced this week that it would launch a $5 million contest to help retrain workers who lost employment to automation.
Why it matters: The pandemic has only accelerated the job-destroying effects of automation. As the U.S. looks to put tens of millions of people back to work, truly big solutions will be needed.
How it works: In the new contest, called XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, teams will take a cohort of people who had been in lower-skilled occupations, attempt to retrain them over a period of 60 days, and then place them in more sustainable new occupations.
- "We hope this competition is really going to stimulate a conversation about using technology to create a better future for jobs," says XPRIZE CEO Anousheh Ansari.
Background: XPRIZE has run a number of innovation competitions since it was founded in 1995, including the Ansari XPRIZE, which offered $10 million to the first privately financed team that could build and fly a three-passenger vehicle 62 miles into space twice within two weeks.
- The contest, which was won by Mojave Aerospace Ventures after more than eight years of work, arguably helped kick off the private spaceflight era.
- Such innovation competitions have a historical pedigree that goes back to the Longitude Prize, which the British government awarded in 1714 to the first person who developed a way for a seagoing ship to measure longitude.
The bottom line: Prize contents can encourage out of the box thinking, which is something the field of reskilling desperately needs.