New Jersey officials were looking for companies and organizations that had innovative ideas designed to promote worker rights, worker safety and lifelong learning.
The process was called the Future of Work Accelerator Open Innovation Challenge — and Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced 19 applicants had been selected to start a 9-month program to help them start, grow or scale their projects in New Jersey.
“I’m proud to announce the first-ever cohort of the Future of Work Accelerator program, and I’m eager to see them apply their creativity, dedication and innovative approaches to help New Jerseyans thrive,” Murphy said. “To the participants, congratulations and the best of luck as you hone and supercharge your work through the accelerator. This announcement is an important milestone as we continue the work to make New Jersey a hotbed for equitable innovation.”
Judges evaluated applications on a number of criteria, including existing or planned commitment to invest in New Jersey, the ingenuity of the proposed concept, the level of social impact on vulnerable workers and the potential for sustainable growth.
The following companies or organizations were selected:
- A-Plus Apprentice
- The Center for Innovation in Worker Organizations CIWO at Rutgers
- Centro Community Partners
- Drivers Seat Cooperative
- Hopeworks Camden
- Makerhoods Inc.
- Make the Road New Jersey
- Newark Movement for Economic Equity
- New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program
- The Scholars Program
- Shimmy Technologies Inc.
- Startup Tribes
- STEERus INC
- Toucan App Inc.
- Ultranauts Academy
- Viva Translate
- Workers Benefit Fund
- Year Up
The accelerator is an initiative of the New Jersey State Future of Work Task Force, a broader effort to prepare workers and businesses for the future of work. Through the accelerator, participants will receive custom coaching, curated connections to national experts, introductions to funders and peers, and will have the opportunity to pilot worker-centric programs and practices in New Jersey.
The accelerator is open to startups, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, public sector institutions and employees, unions and grassroots organizations interested in promoting innovative solutions.
The Future of Work Accelerator will focus on innovations that address the following themes:
- Improving employment opportunities for workers via lifelong learning and reskilling initiatives, improved career and/or training guidance, or other such innovations.
- Offering greater economic security and resilience through financial innovations like portable benefits solutions, crowdfunding initiatives, etc.
- Strengthening worker voice, ownership and power.
- Enhancing employer practices (e.g., workplace safety innovations, hazard pay, portable benefits, hiring and recruitment technology).
- Improving job opportunities, inclusion and financial support systems for disadvantaged groups/demographics (e.g., day laborers, immigrants, the elderly, rural workers, misclassified workers in the gig economy, minorities, etc.).
Beth Simone Noveck, chief innovation officer for the state of New Jersey, said the state is eager to get going.
“These innovators are taking on incredible challenges, and the accelerator is here to help,” she said. “This is an opportunity for participants to sharpen their skills through masterclass sessions, connect with peer innovators and receive personalized coaching to help them implement their initiatives and achieve the greatest impact. I look forward to working with this cohort and helping them meet the challenges of the future of work head on.”