NOW is the time to
reimagine education

Every student should have the opportunity to build the skills, knowledge, and mindsets that lead to successful careers.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, half of America’s young people believed they weren’t ready for their careers, and adults and employers agreed with them (Gallup, 2018; Kauffman, 2019).

The pandemic has caused 30% of young Americans to become disconnected from both school and work, jeopardizing their future prospects (Pew, 2020).

The Catalyze Challenge is a grant competition designed to improve young people’s career readiness and engagement with education. We support solutions that meet the urgency of the moment by funding early-stage approaches that prepare students in grades 6-14 to chart and pursue their own paths to career success.

Do you have an idea that helps young people achieve economic opportunity and lifelong success through career-connected learning?


Visit our Winners page.


1- and 2-year Accelerate grants of up to $500,000 support the piloting or expansion of novel career-connected learning solutions.

In this category, Catalzye seeks transformative models that:

  • Focus on the needs of at least one historically underserved group
  • Meaningfully engage employers
  • Are designed for scalability

Catalyze has identified two Accelerate themes that exist along a learning continuum: career identity development and planning and post-high school pathways.


1-year Ignite planning grants of up to $50,000 help to formalize innovative ideas that transform how young people prepare for their careers.

In this category, we seek new and emerging ideas for disrupting the way students become career-ready. We believe that these creative approaches can come from anywhere and anyone.

Accelerate: Programs ready for piloting or expansion

Career Identity
Development and Planning

Real-world learning and career exposure models that allow students, especially in middle school years, to develop career identities

Winning models, submitted by any organization that serves young people, will feature at least one of the following:

  • Engage students in deepening self-knowledge of aptitudes and preferences
  • Offer students agency in exploring diverse career pathways
  • Support learners in strengthening career navigation and/or essential skills

Post-High School Pathways

Partnership-based models that effectively prepare students to access economic opportunity post-high school

Winning models are collaborative initiatives among two or more organizations that will feature at least one of the following:

  • Integrate “earn while you learn” models to address financial pressures
  • Introduce a novel approach to sharing resources between applicants (e.g. staff, data, credits, accountability)
  • Support students in earning one or more employer-valued credentials, with a preference for stackable credentials
who can apply
school districts
post-secondary institutions
charter management organizations (CMOs)
industry associations
industry associations
community-based organizations and non-profits
Applicants may include any of these organizations; however, the direct beneficiary of the grant must be a tax-exempt organization.
Ignite: early stage ideas

Seeking moonshot
education-to-career ideas

The boldest emerging models will help us reimagine how we prepare young people for their careers. Ignite funds can be used to advance early-stage concepts through planning, research, development, testing, or design.

The challenge brief

Learn more about the Challenge


Visit our Winners page.
Frequently asked questions


If you have a program ready to serve students in school year 2022-2023, then we encourage you to apply for an Accelerate Award. If you have an idea that needs further development, then we encourage you to apply for an Ignite Award. We encourage Ignite applicants to apply for additional funding to launch their models in future Catalyze Challenges.


No, Accelerate awards are granted in amounts worth up to $500K, and Ignite awards amounts worth up to $50K. Applicants will propose an award budget in their applications. The Challenge evaluators will review the applicant’s request, as supported by plans and other documentation, in granting specific awards. Grants will be evaluated according to the magnitude of the problem that the model is attempting to solve, belief in the model’s ability to address that problem, and the model’s overall cost-efficiency.


For the Accelerate award, for-profits, individuals, and organizations awaiting tax-exempt status determination are eligible only when partnering with a benefitting tax-exempt organization. The Accelerate award will be granted to the named tax-exempt organization.

Ignite awards are open to tax-exempt organizations and for-profit entities. To qualify for an Ignite award, for-profit applicants must demonstrate that their project has a charitable purpose and will not result in a private benefit to their business. For example, a previous for-profit Ignite winner used their educational platform to connect students with web development and social media projects at nonprofit organizations.

Please check the Challenge Brief for more details on the Challenge timeline, awards, eligibility, evaluation, and more.



Yes, applicants may submit multiple applications, provided that each application focuses on a discrete new program, program feature, technology, or tool. An applicant organization may submit applications for both Accelerate and Ignite awards, so long as each application addresses a different topic, at varying stages of development.


Accelerate applications will occur in two phases. All Accelerate applicants must submit phase one of the application on March 6, 2022. Selected applicants will be invited to participate in the second phase, which involves answering an additional set of questions by April 3.

There is only one phase for Ignite applications, which are due in full on March 6.

Accelerate finalists will participate in a Zoom-based interview with the Selection Committee and panels with learners and/or employers. Ignite finalists will participate in additional screening that may include interviews and panel discussions.


Yes! While the Challenge is open and we receive questions from interested parties, we will update Appendix D in the Challenge Brief (linked) with new questions and responses.

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