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Nearly $98.5 Million in Workforce Innovation Fund Grants

Posted on 01/09/2012


On Dec. 22, 2011, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced the availability of approximately $98.5 million through the Workforce Innovation Fund (the Fund) to support innovative approaches for the design and delivery of employment and training services. The fund invests in programs that support, evaluate and enhance workforce investment strategies, particularly for vulnerable populations. Approximately 20 to 30 grants ranging from $1 million to $12 million are expected to be funded. A solicitation for grant applications (SGA) was published in the Dec. 23, 2011 edition of the Federal Register [pdf]. Applications under this announcement must be received by no later than 4 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on March 22, 2012.

The Fund is one of several new federal grant programs (including the Department of Education's Investing in Innovation Fund [I3] and the Corporation for National and Community Service's Social Innovation Fund) in which grantor agencies fund projects to use evidence to design program strategies. Grants made under the Fund will support state workforce agencies, to a) retool service delivery strategies and/or policy and administrative systems and processes to improve outcomes for workforce system customers and b) evaluate the effectiveness of such activities. Through the Fund, the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) seeks to support changes in structures and policies that enable a closer alignment and integration of workforce development, education, human services, social insurance and economic development programs.

Eligible applicants include Local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) and consortia of Local Workforce Investment Boards. Adult Education agencies may want to contact their local WIB to see if they will be applying for funding, and if a partnership with the adult school might be an asset.

Interested parties focusing on adult education are encouraged to review the full SGA [pdf]—particularly sections I. B and I. C. These sections detail strategies in which the funding opportunity is seeking to invest and provide examples of types of service delivery and system reform strategies that are considered innovative under the Fund, such as: 1) Implementing comprehensive career pathway approaches that align and bridge training, education, employment and supportive services at the local and state levels; partner with employers; and enable individuals to move beyond adult basic education and succeed in postsecondary education, earn industry-recognized credentials, and advance along a career path; 2) Integrating adult basic education and occupational skills training to enable individuals to increase their educational learning gains and earn industry-recognized credentials while completing basic skills training; 3) Connecting the multiple systems and structures that serve individuals with limited English proficiency through mechanisms such as coordinating Workforce Investment Act funding for Titles I and II to support effective contextualized programs that result in increased fluency in the English language and the attainment of credentials that are relevant to employers; and 4) Partnering with and leveraging resources from other federally funded programs, such as Adult Basic Education.

For detailed application information, eligibility requirements, review and selection procedures and other program requirements governing this solicitation, please review the full SGA [pdf]. Applicants are encouraged, but not required to view the pre-recorded webinar. [www] Interested parties also may wish view a recording of the Administrative Flexibility Webinar [www], which details how applicants may explore the use of existing flexibilities that are embedded within several federal programs and explore waivers that may be needed to remove statutory and regulatory barriers that would enhance innovations applicants propose. Check the Workforce Innovation Fund [www] site for news, information, and updates on the Fund.

From the OVAE Connection [www], newsletter of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U. S. Department of Education, January 5, 2012