DOL announces $34 million in innovation grants

June 12, 2015

This week, the Department of Labor announced $34 million in competitive grant funding available through the Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF), which supports innovative employment and training approaches.

This is the third round of WIF funding, but the first since the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) became law. Consistent with WIOA’s emphasis on creating a more integrated and aligned workforce system, the WIF solicitation promotes collaboration across programs both within and outside of WIOA. Specifically, DOL is requiring applicants to develop strategies that include at least two additional core programs under WIOA, such as the Wagner-Peyser Employment Service, and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and Vocational Rehabilitation programs. In addition, applicants’ strategies must also include at least one non-core program, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Carl D. Perkins Act, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) program, state Jobs for Veterans programs, and apprenticeship programs.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) is seeking proposals that address one or more of the following strategies:

  • Enhancing strategic collaboration and alignment of workforce development and partner programs to provide more effective services that are aligned to employer needs and local economic development activities. Examples include implementing strategies to ensure workforce development activities are targeted to the needs of employers through sector strategies and work-based learning; creating collaboratives to house multiple sector partnerships; coordinating across local areas to implement cost effective administration and operating practices; implementing a comprehensive multi-agency training program that improves employment outcomes for low-skilled and underserved populations; and expanding employer commitments to work-based learning.
  • Strengthening the quality of the American Job Center services provided by workforce and partner programs to individuals and employers. Examples include streamlining access for job seekers; development of broader and more consistent use of high quality skills assessment tools, case management methods, and career navigation services; blending or braiding funds with common outcome goals to promote basic skills gains, employment, or the development of career pathways; new approaches to improve coordination across programs and ensure supportive services are available; and aligning services to improve participant outcomes, including credential attainment.
  • Promoting accountability, data-driven decision making, and customer choice for workforce and partner programs. Examples include designing common or linked technology-based intake and case management systems; expanding access to comprehensive information on providers; linking or aligning data system performance accountability and data systems; and use of robust, validated data to inform planning, strategy development, and operations across programs.

The performance period for the grants is four years, and awards will range from $3 million to $6 million. Applications are due by July 23, 2015, and awards will be announced no later than September 30, 2015.

National Skills Coalition strongly supports efforts to enhance coordination and alignment across a broad range of human capital programs and services. NSC recently launched a webinar series, "Aligned by Design," which explores how states can use the WIOA planning process to align key human capital investments to produce better outcomes for individuals and local economies. The webinars focus on the interaction between WIOA and Perkins Career and Technical Education, Adult Education, TANF, and SNAP E&T.