Every day Erica drives past the impressive new high-tech park on her way to work. A job there could net her several times what she makes now at her part-time fast food job, with better benefits and advancement opportunities. With her current skill set, however, she simply can not hope to qualify for such an opportunity. Today there are one million openings in health care, business, and education. Yet, many Americans lack the skills and training to even be considered. Some industries have resorted to bringing in guest workers from other countries on H-1B temporary work visas to meet their staffing needs. A new federal program aims to change this, by equipping U.S. workers with the exact qualifications their local industries need to stay competitive in the global market.
America’s Promise Job-Driven Grants
When employers bring in temporary workers from abroad, they pay fees to do so. These fees are now funding a program to provide training for American workers so they can take advantage of high-demand and often high-paying positions that afford financial security. Employers benefit too, because they will be able to look locally for the talent they need. The Department of Labor is making $100 million available to fund from 20-40 grants from $1 to $6 million each for tuition-free career based education that meets industry-specific skills.
Regional partnerships are the key to this funding opportunity. Employers, economic and workforce development agencies, state and community colleges, training programs, K-12 educations systems and community-based organizations define the labor needs of industry in a particular region. All the organizations then work together to develop and support the education-to-employment pipeline, with industry taking a active role in curriculum to insure graduates will have the skills and credentials they need to be successful in their new jobs.
Qualifying industries are those that are heavily dependent on H-1B work visas. They have a high number of vacancies for middle- and high-skilled jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience, and frequent retraining to stay current. Examples include:
- IT and IT-Related Industries
- Health Care
- Advanced Manufacturing
- Financial Services
- Education Services
Successful Examples from a Program with Similar Goals
Since this is a new grant, the administration provided examples from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program to demonstrate successful regional workforce development:
- Bridgestone Tire Company, in partnership with Motlow State Community College, developed an on-site facility in Smyrna, TN, for a mechatronics training facility.
- Piedmont Technical College in South Carolina redesigned its advanced manufacturing certificate with the advice of 27 different employers. Sixteen of them contributed $1.4 million to PTC for an Advanced Manufacturing Center.
- Michigan’s Alpena Community College, the Michigan National Guard, the state workforce development board, and the state’s two largest energy employers designed a “Gas Energy Bootcamp” to train veterans and unemployed people for careers in the energy field.
The lead applicant should be one of the following:
- Workforce investment system
- Education and training provider – including community and technical colleges
- Business-related nonprofit organization
- Workforce intermediary serving needs of industry, region, or industry association.
- Regional employer and industry representatives
- Regional workforce investment system
- Economic Development agencies
- Education and training providers
For the employer requirement, five or more independent employers, a consortium of at least five employers, or a regional industry association with at least five employers should also be involved. More than five is encouraged. Senior leadership involvement is preferred. No matching funds are required. As with any grant application, the Department of Labor strongly recommends a thorough examination of the NOFA (Notification of Funding Availability). In their words, "Take it literally." The deadline to apply is August 25, 2016.
Further Resources for America's Promise
Successful Public-Private Partnerships
Partnerships between local government and community based organizations can be a win-win. Click below for more examples: