OCTAE Connection - Issue 207 - July 17, 2014

OCTAE Newsletter

                                July 17, 2014

Green Ribbon Schools Introduces New Postsecondary Sustainability Award   

The Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program has announced a new Postsecondary Sustainability Award. Since 2012, Green Ribbon Schools has had awards to recognize pre-k–12 schools and districts, but this is the first time one has been offered for post-secondary institutions. 

Each state may nominate one postsecondary institution that exemplifies the program’s three pillars: 1) reduced environmental impact and costs; 2) improved health and wellness; and 3) effective environmental and sustainability education. In addition, “state selection committees are particularly encouraged to document how the nominees’ sustainability work has reduced college costs, increased completion rates, led to higher rates of employment, and ensured robust civic skills among graduates and to make an appropriate effort to consider diverse types of institutions.”

States must submit their nominations to the Department of Education by Feb. 1, 2015. Please see the Green Ribbon Schools website for more information, including the application process. .

National Governors Association Releases Two New Publications on Workforce Policy  

The National Governors Association (NGA) recently released two new publications from its Economic, Human Services & Workforce Division: the report Advances in Workforce Policy: Insights from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act Training Grants and the companion paper “Upskill/Backfill Strategies: Advancing Incumbent Workers and Opening Opportunities for Job Seekers.” Adult education and workforce providers are encouraged to examine the findings from these two publications for potential application to their own work.

According to both publications, “ … job seekers, employers and communities all benefited from workforce programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) …” funded by the U.S. Department of Labor during the 2007–09 recession. 

 Advances in Workforce Policy examines the 50 top-tier ARRA grantees’ progress during the recession.  The report found that, although “some of the grantees had difficulty achieving their goals, many others found ways to adapt to the changing economic environment and meet their targets for placing newly trained individuals in jobs.” This preliminary knowledge highlights what is needed to succeed in workforce development.

The report includes a discussion on three common characteristics that grantees considered critical to their success: 1) “a long-term strategy to better integrate education and training programs with the needs of industry in their regional economies;” 2) the agility to “adjust tactics and near-term objectives rapidly;” and 3) “accountability across partners to identify needed changes, quickly make adjustments, and work toward achieving their goals.”

The “Upskill/Backfill Strategies” paper focuses on the lessons learned from the training of unemployed and dislocated workers under the ARRA High Growth and Emerging Industry Sectors grant program.   Benefits of the program cited include “job seekers benefiting from an increase in a company’s ability to hire; employers benefiting from training that reduced costs; and, communities benefiting from the preservation of jobs and the increasing income of newly trained workers.”  

Social Innovation Fund Launches Pay for Success Grants Competition

The Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a White House initiative and program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, has launched its first Pay for Success Grants Competition. The program “will provide up to $11.2 million in grants to eligible nonprofit organizations and city and state governments seeking to advance and evaluate emerging models that align payment for social services with verified social outcomes.” The competition will back initiatives that have proven to be effective, rather than those with the promise of future success.

Pay for Success Grants seeks to foster partnerships “with philanthropic and private sector investors to create incentives for service providers to deliver better outcomes at lower cost—producing the highest return on taxpayer investments. ” Because the investments are based on prior evidence, there is a high probability that the initiatives that are selected for grants will succeed.

According to the notice, Pay for Success initiatives will be funded by a $100 million budget across program areas, such as “workforce development, education, juvenile justice and care of children with disabilities.” Each grant will range from $200,000 to $1,800,000 per year for a three-year period

The application deadline is Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 5 p.m. ET. Applicants who are selected will be notified by Sept. 30, 2014.

Click here for application instructions.

Still Searching:  Job Candidates With STEM Skills 

Workers with STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—skills are essential in promoting innovation and economic growth, but there is a relative (and perhaps an absolute) shortage of U.S. workers with the STEM skills our economy requires, according to Jonathan Rockwell of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.  His recent report, Still Searching:  Job Vacancies and STEM Skills, used new data to “analyze the skill requirements and the advertisement duration time for millions of job openings.”  It contains a wealth of information for those preparing the STEM workforce of the future.

Rothwell concluded that the demand for workers with STEM skills exceeds the supply, and that this mismatch is especially acute in certain metropolitan areas.  It is more difficult, Rothwell found, to ascertain whether there is “an absolute shortage of STEM skills” but, he states, “important consequences follow from even a relative shortage.”  Rothwell writes that, without “major changes” in the way the United States trains and educates its workforce, the relative shortage of workers with STEM skills will likely enlarge “the already sizeable long-term gap in lifetime earnings and unemployment rates between STEM and non-STEM workers.” This will exacerbate “income inequality generally and inequality across racial/ethnic groups and gender more specifically.”

The report details the effects of the recession on STEM jobs. It finds that the relative shortage of workers with high-level STEM skills is the same now as it was before the recession.  STEM positions demanding higher levels of education were only slightly less difficult to fill during the recession “before becoming as difficult to fill as before by early 2012.”  Rothwell reports that this was the only category of jobs to see an increase in hiring difficulty from late 2006 to early 2012.

Overall, the study found that specific skills common to STEM occupations matter to employers and that those “skills vary both between and within occupations,” with employers valuing some more than others. Rothwell noted that there is a wide variance in the skills required for many computer, health care, and management jobs.  He observed that in the first quarter of 2013, “employers requested 1296 distinct skills for health care workers and 1272 distinct skills for computer workers.”  The need of such distinct skills has obvious implications for how the STEM workers of the future must be trained.