December 16, 2014 Issue 221

OCTAE Newsletter

December 16, 2014 


DOL Announces $100M American Apprenticeships Grant Competition

On Thursday, Dec. 12, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the availability of $100 million in training grants to expand Registered Apprenticeships (also known as American Apprenticeships) in high-skilled, high-growth industries like healthcare, biotechnology, information technology and advanced manufacturing. Registered Apprenticeships have long been acknowledged as one of the nation’s best preparation models for skilled trades, yet the program remains underutilized. These unparalleled grants will help to transform apprenticeships for the 21st century and escalate employment in these sectors. 

Approximately 25 grants, ranging from $2.5 million to $5 million each, will be conferred using funds collected from employers who use H-1B visas to hire foreign workers. Programs sponsored by this initiative will provide U.S. workers with the training to fill jobs that 1) are estimated to employ a considerable number of new workers; 2) are being altered by equipment and modernizations that require 21st-century skills; 3) are in innovating and developing industries and/or businesses that are anticipated to grow; or 4) have a substantial effect on the economy, overall. 

Apprenticeship grants will be presented to public and private partnerships among employers, business associations, joint labor-management organizations, labor organizations, community colleges, local and state governments, and other non-profit organizations. Successful applicants will use the federal funds to grow Registered Apprenticeship programs that align with other postsecondary education programs and generate career pathways to long-term careers. 

These grants will encourage greater access to apprenticeship opportunities for historically underrepresented populations, including women, young people of color, people with disabilities, and veterans and transitioning service members. 

Funding applications are due by April 30, 2015. The full announcement, which includes information on eligibility and how to apply, is available here. 

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The U.S. Departments of Labor and Education Expand Educational Opportunities for Registered Apprenticeship Graduates

Registered Apprenticeship programs meet the skilled workforce needs of American industry, and have trained millions of qualified individuals for lifelong careers since 1937. Registered Apprenticeship helps mobilize America's workforce with structured, on-the-job learning in traditional industries, such as construction and manufacturing, as well as in emerging ones, such as health care, information technology, energy, telecommunications, and more. The program also connects job seekers looking to learn new skills with employers, resulting in a competitive workforce with industry-driven training.

The Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium (RACC), a joint initiative of the departments of Education and Labor, is a national network composed of

postsecondary institutions, employers, labor management groups, and other associations. These entities work together to give students the necessary skills to take them from Registered Apprenticeships through college and gainful employment.  Additionally, the RACC enhances the competitiveness of U.S. businesses by providing them with highly trained workers who possess in-demand skills and competencies.

"The decision to prepare a student for college or career is no longer an option in today's competitive global economy," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a press release about the RACC. "To ensure a highly skilled and trained workforce that can compete with the best and brightest across the world, we have to train our students for college and career. This program provides a much needed pathway for students to develop needed technical skills while also pursuing a college degree, strengthening the middle class." 

The RACC strives to foster (1) strengthened relationships between the Registered Apprenticeship program and secondary institutions; (2) informed, mutually understanding partnerships among Registered Apprenticeship, the RACC and postsecondary institutions; (3) an understanding of apprentices as students; and (4) the ability of apprentices to earn credits for the Registered Apprenticeship experience, pursue further credentials, and pursue transfer opportunities.

For more information on the Registered Apprentice program, click here, and to learn about RACC, click here.

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MDRC Releases WorkAdvance Report on Sector-Focused Career Advancement for Low-Skilled Adults

Current data, including that found in the OECD’s report, Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says, shows that many low-skilled adults across the nation experience difficulty securing family-sustaining employment and career advancement. Concurrently, many employers are reporting that they have experienced challenges in finding skilled employees, even during times of high unemployment. Tackling both employer and worker needs are key priorities for public workforce systems and development organizations. To that end, the MDRC recently released its first WorkAdvance report, Meeting the Needs of Workers and Employers: Implementation of a Sector-Focused Career Advancement Model for Low-Skilled Adults, which, in its early findings, provides insight on this critical issue. Entities providing and coordinating services for adult learners may benefit from reviewing this report.

According to MDRC, the WorkAdvance program model integrates the most salient features of two critical areas of workforce policy: “‛sectoral’ strategies, which seek to meet the needs of both workers and employers by preparing individuals for quality jobs in specific high-demand industries or occupational clusters; and, job retention and career advancement strategies, which seek to improve workers’ prospects for sustained employment and upward mobility.” The model, according to the report, offers sequenced, sector-focused program components for up to two years following enrollment. These include “preemployment and career readiness services, occupational skills training, job development and placement, and postemployment retention and advancement services.” The report notes that four organizations (two in New York City, one in Tulsa, Okla., and one in greater Cleveland) are presently operating WorkAdvance programs centering on a variety of sectors and types of experience and approaches.

This report contains early results from the four local program providers on their individual renderings of the model into effective programs. It includes lessons that may be useful to organizations that are interested in implementing sector-focused career advancement programs comparable to WorkAdvance.  It also offers lessons and insights for practitioners and workforce development professionals on best practices and implementation challenges for a program similar to WorkAdvance.

Key report findings (See full report for complete details.):

  • The model is challenging—it requires that providers work effectively with both employers and program participants and incorporate a new postemployment advancement component. “Yet all four providers are now delivering each of the WorkAdvance components, with postemployment services being the least developed.”
  • Screening for program entry was driven by employer needs and, on average, only one in five applicants were qualified for the program.
  • “Soft” (essential) skills, taught in career-readiness classes, emerged as being of similar importance to participants and employers as the technical skills acquired in occupational skills training.
  • Early indications indicate that completion rates for occupational skills training are high, with variance across the providers. In most instances, completion of the training led to industry-recognized credentials for trainees—a critical first step toward attaining sector-based jobs.

MDRC plans to release a second report in late 2015. It will provide an in-depth look at the WorkAdvance implementation, as well as findings on program costs, impacts on employment, earnings, and other outcomes. Collectively, these two reports will give policymakers, practitioners, and funders valuable information “on the feasibility, impact, and cost of expanding and replicating a model of this type for low-income populations in various local contexts.”

WorkAdvance program operations and evaluations are funded through the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a public-private partnership administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. This SIF project is led by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with MDRC. For more detailed information, please read the report’s executive summary and/or the full report.

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White House Hosts College Opportunity Day of Action: 600 New Actions Announced to Help More Students Prepare for and Graduate from College

On Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, President Obama and the first lady joined college presidents and other leaders to mark the second College Opportunity Day of Action. Attendees made new commitments to improve postsecondary degree completion, sustain community collaborations that encourage college-going, train high school counselors (part of the first lady’s Reach Higher Initiative), and produce more STEM graduates with diverse backgrounds. This is part of the administration’s commitment to increasing the opportunity for all Americans to enroll in and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students.  Fulfilling this commitment is important, both for the nation’s prosperity and for rebuilding a strong middle class.

For more information on this event, please click here. For a summary of the progress of those leaders who participated in the first day of action, held on Jan. 14, 2014, please click here. To view the president’s report, Commitments to Action on College Opportunity, please click here.

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