USG, Georgia Tech Awarded National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator Grant

September 18, 2019 | By GTPE Communications
Overhead view on Georgia Tech

The Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded a grant of $499,753 by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator to develop the Competency Catalyst project in conjunction with the University System of Georgia (USG). The Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) will work in partnership with a skilled project team that includes university faculty, researchers, and educational technology leaders from across the country to oversee the successful implementation of Competency Catalyst.

Competency Catalyst is a database that helps working professionals identify emerging technological areas that are in demand. Armed with this knowledge, workers can enhance their education and training to better meet the needs of the marketplace.

“It is essential that today’s workforce be able to compare their skills to those needed by employers so that they can identify gaps in their skills or experience and find opportunities to learn, train and/or reskill,” said Steve Harmon, associate dean of research for Georgia Tech Professional Education and associate director of C21U. “A project like Competency Catalyst creates tangible pathways and access to data so that both employers and workers can better understand their needs in an ever-changing, technology-driven labor market.”

Competency Catalyst leverages a network of over 200 academic institutions, corporate partners, educational institutions, and standards bodies, as well as investments in infrastructure, open data, standards, and technology to create a national-scale repository of in-demand competencies and skills. This repository will have appropriate access controls but will be open to the workforce for exploration.

Competency Catalyst will have far-reaching implications for the labor market and higher education. The tools developed will create a “digital thread” connecting educational programs to job market demands, enabling students and educators to adjust their programs to current and future needs in real time and allowing local employers to align their needs with national demands and to influence the supply side of the talent pipeline.

This project will utilize National Science Foundation (NSF) funding to:

  1. Support the Competency Catalyst repository with artificial intelligence (AI)I-based tools for extracting competency frameworks from job postings, credentials, and other sources.
  2. Create an AI-based “Rosetta Stone” that aligns these frameworks with each other and with educational and training experiences.
  3. Develop applications that help educators, trainers, and students target current and predicted skills and competencies.

Harmon and Myk Garn, assistant vice chancellor for new learning models for the USG Board of Regents, will lead the development and implementation of Competency Catalyst, alongside a skilled team of higher education and industry experts.

The Competency Catalyst team includes:

  • Matthew Gee, co-founder and CEO of BrightHive and senior researcher at the University of Chicago
  • Jeffrey Grann, credential solutions lead for Credential Engine
  • Joseph Karaganis, director of OpenSyllabus and vice president at The American Assembly at Columbia University
  • Elaine Kelsey, senior software engineer for research at Eduworks
  • Jeanne Kitchens, associate director at the Southern Illinois University Center for Workforce Development
  • Laura Levy, research scientist II for Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology and the Interactive Media Technology Center
  • Matt Lisle, director of digital learning technologies for Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities
  • Beth Mynatt, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology and distinguished professor in the College of Computing
  • Tom Plagge, co-founder and head of platform for BrightHive
  • Fritz Ray, director of engineering at Eduworks
  • Robby Robson, president and founder of Eduworks

Stuart Sutton, associate professor emeritus at the University of Washington’s Information School

"As we seek to chart the future of the human-technology frontier in a world of rapidly changing industry needs, AI tools, and university educational programs, projects like Competency Catalyst are a critical piece of the puzzle," said Mynatt. “The Institute for People and Technology is excited to collaborate with USG, the Center for 21st Century Universities, and all of the exceptional contributors who will help bring this groundbreaking program to life.”