Grant Program Aims at Fostering Industry Partnerships to Retrain Workers

By Kathy Gurchiek May 16, 2014

A new grant program has designated up to $150 million for states, U.S. territories and federally recognized tribes to help train laid-off workers and get them into high-demand industries, announced U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez on April 28, 2014.

Through the new Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) wants grant recipients to develop strong partnerships among workforce and industry organizations. The DOL also wants grant recipients to align services with other federal, state or local programs, such as unemployment insurance, the Workforce Investment Act, trade adjustment assistance programs or other occupational training leading to an industry-recognized credential.

“These grants will provide states with critical funding to implement and expand proven strategies so that workers can secure a foothold in the middle class, and businesses can grow,” Perez stated in a news release.

Funds also may be used to implement innovative approaches, such as to:

  • Provide job coaching and job-matching models that help dislocated workers—particularly the long-term unemployed—receive specialized services to help them re-enter the workforce.
  • Use technology and social media to recruit workers, improve job search tools, provide distance learning opportunities, and collect and disseminate labor market information.
  • Provide specialized services for laid-off workers, such as financial counseling.
  • Develop employer measures to track employee satisfaction and success.

The size of the grants will range from $500,000 to $6 million and are being made available through the Workforce Investment Act Dislocated Worker National Reserve fund to provide assistance in response to “significant dislocation” of workers, such as that resulting from plant closures and mass layoffs.

Applications for the grant money must be received by May 27, 2014, by the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration.

These grants are designed to increase the capacity of work-based training models, like Registered Apprenticeshipand on-the-job training programs,” Perez wrote in an April 28, 2014, blog.

Registered Apprenticeship is a national system of on-the-job training that is delivered through partnerships with companies. The DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship, in conjunction with state apprenticeship agencies, administers the program nationally. Sponsors for the program include labor-management organizations, employers, industry associations, government and the military.

The idea for the Job-Driven National Emergency Grant program, Perez added, “is to give workers the chance to ‘learn and earn,’ developing skills while earning a paycheck. With on-the-job training, employers who participate can actually use this funding to offset the cost of training and temporarily cover a portion of the wages for the folks they hire.”

The program is the latest in the White House’s job training and apprenticeship focus. On April 28 it announced the launch of Find Your Path, a new online program that features information on federally funded job training programs.

On April 16, President Barack Obama also announced the creation of the American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI). The DOL is using $100 million from existing H-1B funds to finance grants that award partnerships among employers, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations. These partnerships:

  • Launch apprenticeships in new and growing fields, such as advanced technology, health care and information technology.
  • Align apprenticeships with career paths, such as with industry-recognized credentials or college credit.
  • Assist in demonstrating the value and marketing of new and existing Registered Apprenticeship programs that are working in order to have them reach sustainable scale and recognition among industry and workers.

Competition for the AAI grants will be in fall 2014, and the grants will be awarded in winter, according to the DOL.

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News.


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