Global Business Coalition for Education: Madison-based organization wins $10,000 for using AI to support youth skills development, Sidekick Education earns second place in “Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge”

MADISON, WI – The Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) has named Sidekick Education a second-place winner of the “Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge.” Sidekick Education, in partnership with the City of Madison, will receive $10,000 to support their text-based chatbot that functions as a career advisor for young people ages 16-24. They will also be part of a network of changemakers working to boost youth skills development in cities across the country. 

“Opportunity youth reach a supportive cliff when they graduate from high school that leaves them disconnected from the resources and supports that can help them access education and career opportunities,” said Sarah Shaw, Founder of Sidekick Education. “Sidekick Education is using AI technology to build an in-pocket advisor that will help young people connect to the right resources at the right time so they can move into economically empowering futures.” 

By using the chatbot, young people can discover career opportunities, learn what skills they need to pursue that career, and connect with the right resources or people. Sidekick Education works with a cross-sector network of entities, including the City of Madison, local educational institutions, and employer workgroups to create a network of career opportunities for young people facing barriers to employment. 

Sidekick Education has extensive experience helping girls explore career options in STEM fields. With the award from the “Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge,” Sidekick Education is hoping to expand its focus onto opportunity youth – young people who are neither in school nor employed and receive limited access to career-readiness support. The award will help fund the pilot initiative set to launch in June 2022.

The “Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge” honors teams for their bold, innovative ideas that equip young people to participate in the workforce. It helps solve an urgent problem: in the US, one in ten young people is not in school and not employed – a total of four million youth. These young people are badly needed in the workforce. The most recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed 11.3 million job openings – a near record high – with openings increasing in many sectors including service and manufacturing.  

“Cities and businesses across the country are struggling to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. They must attract young, diverse workers who are excited by the innovation and energy of urban centers,” said Justin van Fleet, Executive Director of GBC-Education. “To jump start these efforts, cities need to re-imagine how they can create ecosystems allowing young people to gain the skills they need for meaningful employment. That’s exactly what Sidekick Education and other teams have done. Their ideas are tremendously inspiring.” 

The winning team is from Greensboro, North Carolina. Sidekick Education is among a select group of 14 finalists from across the country. Together, these organizations will form a nationwide community of practice of changemakers. Over the course of the next year, this network will share best practices and connect with business leaders and policymakers invested in youth skills development efforts. This will allow their ideas to grow, succeed, and inspire others.  

The full lists of winners and finalists are: 

  • Winner: Action Greensboro – Greensboro, NC 
  • 2nd Place: Sidekick Education – Madison, WI 
  • 2nd Place: Orlando Community and Youth Trust – Orlando, FL 
  • Finalist: The Trust for Public Land – Camden, NJ 
  • Finalist: STL Youth Jobs, Saint Louis, MO 
  • Finalist: Jeffco Schools Foundation, Jefferson County, CO 
  • Finalist: Philadelphia Works, Inc – Philadelphia, PA 
  • Finalist: Build UP Birmingham – Birmingham, AL 
  • Finalist: Citizens for Educational Excellence – Corpus Christi, TX  
  • Finalist: Junior Achievement Arkansas – Little Rock, AR 
  • Finalist: Center for the Future of Arizona – Tucson, AZ 
  • Finalist: The Urban Alliance – Chicago Region, Chicago, IL  
  • Finalist: EmployIndy – Indianapolis, IN 
  • Finalist: Favor House – College Park, GA 
  • Finalist: New England Basecamp – Providence, RI 

The “Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge” is made possible by the support of Deloitte and Dell Technologies.   To learn more about the “Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge,” click here.About The Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education)  The Global Business Coalition for Education is a movement of businesses committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation. Our mission is to ensure that every child has the best start in life, a safe place to learn, and skills for the future. Established as an initiative of the global children’s charity Theirworld in 2012, Global Business Coalition for Education is committed to bringing together the expertise and resources of the business community with the campaign for global education and Sustainable Development Goal 4.