SHIFA360, a project of Somali Family Service of San Diego (SFS), is one of five finalists in the XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competition – a three-year competition to reimagine the future of work and transform worker training and education.
XPRIZE, along with sponsor New Profit and in partnership with Jobs for the Future, launched the $5 million grand prize competition in June 2020 to incentivize teams to develop and demonstrate effective rapid training and reskilling solutions for individuals vulnerable to employment loss.
“We are excited to see how the five finalist teams in this competition have tackled the challenge of closing the skills gaps,” said XPRIZE CEO, Anousheh Ansari. “The trainings offered are empowering workers and increasing accessibility to full-time, living wage jobs; radically changing lives and bringing abundance for all. The finalists are reimagining job training and career development; leveraging AI, VR, and disruptive technologies and their efforts are paramount in demonstrating the value of fast-paced training programs.”
Founding an Education Platform
The XPRIZE competition isn’t the first competition for SHIFA360. In 2017, Somali Family Service entered Alliance Health Foundation’s i2 Innovation Initiative and won a $1 million grant for its development of a technology platform for education on the safety and efficacy of MMR vaccines in the wake of a measles outbreak.
“It was disproportionately impacting a lot of the immigrant, refugee communities nationwide that we were working with,” said Naja Ibrahim, Director of Health and Wellness at SFS.
Utilizing its experiences working with diverse communities, SHIFA360 knew typical health education platforms did not work well for them because they do not take into account general and health low-literacy in the population.
“We knew that audio-visual formats were really effective, and we also knew the success of immersive technology like virtual reality could be not only innovative but effective across various health topics,” Ibrahim said.
Retooling to Reskill
Through the i2 Initiative process, SHIFA360 learned “a lot about how adults learn and also about the impact community health workers have on health outcomes,” said Manupriya Sharma, director of Business Development and Analytics at SFS. So when XPRIZE announced the Rapid Reskilling competition, SHIFA360 saw an opportunity to expand its platform to include training immigrants for jobs in community health.
“[The XPRIZE competition] is a platform to rapidly reskill under resourced workers. Especially during COVID time, there was an economic impact to conquer that – that was the goal,” Sharma said.
Early last year, SHIFA360 was one of 10 groups selected by XPRIZE from 118 entries from 20 nations. It officially launched its worker training program in May 2021.
In the second round of the competition, SHIFA360 had 90 days to train 350 participants across San Diego County as community health workers; place them in a living wage job; and make sure they retained the job for 60 days. SHIFA’s successful second round moved them into the final round alongside four other finalists:
Alelo, Los Angeles
Dignified Work, formerly Dignity of Work, Spokane, Washington
Team Isotonik, formerly HireMee, Bengaluru, India
“An 84% average reduction in training time is significant,” said Dr. Monique Golden, Technical Lead for XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling. “The finalist teams are crucial in demonstrating how some of our nation’s fastest growing, in-demand jobs retain newly trained workers, many of whom are pivoting careers during a period of challenge and uncertainty.”
In the final round of the competition, the five finalists will need to add two additional job categories to its training platform and train at least 5,000 individuals. The five teams will test their solutions from May to August, with judges set to review the data later this year.
SHIFA360 expanded its recruitment area to include places like Minnesota where SFS already serves large Somali populations and has added medical secretary and commercial vehicle operator training programs.
“I congratulate our SHIFA360 team and the other four selected teams for their innovative ideas to empower communities and help them create a better life for themselves,” said SFS CEO Ahmed Sahid. We are excited about the challenge to rapidly reskill 5,000 workers for living-wage jobs.”
The curriculum for the two additional job categories is currently in the development phase – creating the videos, animations and other visual training methods SHIFA360 has excelled at already. The two job categories were chosen with community input about what jobs would have the most impact.
“Commercial vehicle driving is needed everywhere; and representation at front desks of health clinics and hospitals is important to our community and to the hospitals as well,” Sharma said, adding that both also provide a career path.
“All three training programs we are proposing must have a career path so the participants can move on to the next level in their career,” she said.
To win the next and final level of the XPRIZE competition, Sharma hopes SFS’ community resources, years of experience and extensive network will prove to be the best model for training people into new lines of work.
“The number one thing for displaced people is not knowing where to start,” she said. “As an organization, we feel that we have that outreach into the community, letting people know what is out there. We are able to create that awareness.”
SFS also can help workers with other challenges that hamper success at new jobs such as childcare, transportation and health.
“Our organization can already provide 360-degree wrap-around services,” she said.
Somali Family Service of San Diego – SHIFA360
CEO: Ahmed Sahid
Headquarters: Mid City
Revenue: $1.2 million (SFS, 2020)
Notable: In 2017, SHIFA360 project won a $1 million grant competition held by Alliance Health Foundation.