Have a Future of Work Solution? There’s a New Jersey Accelerator for that!

Do you have a tech solution that impacts the future of work? Or are you innovating ways for companies and people to deal with how work is changing? Then the New Jersey State Office of Innovation’s Future of Work Accelerator could be the place for you.

The Accelerator is a 9-month program that will support innovations that advance the health and safety of New Jersey workers, improve access to benefits, strengthen training opportunities, bolster workers’ voices and/or generally strengthen the economic security of workers and their families.

The application process is well underway, and you can apply here by the June 14 deadline.

To be fair, the Accelerator is not just looking for tech people or startups. According to Beth Simone Noveck, New Jersey State chief innovation officer, “while we welcome startups, we are also seeking applications to the accelerator from individuals and teams from the nonprofit sector, unions, large corporations, government organizations and students, whether or not they are from New Jersey.”

The Accelerator’s web page says, “Perhaps you’ve developed a digital job coach that helps workers identify the best post-pandemic career opportunities, or a training program that teaches workers at risk of automation how to code, or an idea to build traction around universal basic income. Whether the innovation is technology-based or not, the Accelerator can help take it to the next level.”

Through the Accelerator, participants will receive custom coaching, curated connections to national experts, introductions to funders and peers and the opportunity to pilot worker-centric programs and practices in New Jersey.

The Office of Innovation stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for future-of-work solutions. The Accelerator will focus on innovations that address the following themes:

  • Improving employment opportunities for workers via lifelong learning and re-skilling initiatives, improved career and/or training guidance, or other learning and training innovations.
  • Offering greater economic security and resilience through financial innovations like portable-benefits solutions, crowdfunding initiatives, etc.
  • Strengthening workers’ voices, ownership and power.
  • Enhancing employer practices (e.g., workplace safety innovations, hazard pay, portable benefits)
  • Improving job opportunities, inclusion and financial-support systems for disadvantaged misclassified workers in the gig economy, groups/demographics (e.g., day laborers, immigrants, the elderly, rural workers, minorities, etc.)

According to Noveck, “the Accelerator is designed to help people advance and pilot their projects in New Jersey. It will include expert coaching and mentoring, workshops and masterclasses, and curated connections to funding and implementation opportunities. By offering direct support and guidance, boosting visibility, and providing training from industry, tech and policy experts, we hope to foster community among innovators committed to improving the lives of workers and their families.”

So why is New Jersey getting involved in shaping the future of work?

According to Noveck, the Accelerator stems from work undertaken by the New Jersey State Future of Work Task Force.

“In 2019, Governor Murphy appointed the Task Force to evaluate and prepare New Jersey for the challenges and opportunities that technological advancement will bring about. A key goal was to shape our State’s future economy to be stronger, fairer and more inclusive for all.  In order to advance the Task Force’s key goals of protecting worker rights​ and benefits, worker health and safety, and advancing worker voice, we launched the Future of Work Accelerator to identify, cultivate and pilot innovative technology, services and methods.”

The Accelerator is being modeled after work being done by RSA US and The Workers Lab (Oakland, Calif.).

 “We are excited to work with the state of New Jersey on the Future of Work Accelerator to support a diverse group of innovators that can collectively advance economic security in the region,” said Alexa Clay, director of RSA US.

“Through our work together, we aim to enable Accelerator participants to take their place in a movement that is building a new ‘system’ for modern economic security — a blueprint for the future of work in New Jersey and an inspiration to other places wrestling with the challenges of automation, skills training, worker power and inclusion.”   

“The Workers Lab is proud to support the New Jersey Office of Innovation’s Future of Work Accelerator, said CEO Adrian Haro. “As an organization that gives new ideas for workers a chance to succeed, The Workers Lab is eager to see the Accelerator invest in organizations with innovative ideas that improve job quality, increase economic security and uplift the voice of workers.

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