Department of Labor solicits proposals for national equity intermediary contracts

By Katie Spiker, August 01, 2016

On July 27, DOL released a solicitation for proposals for $7.5 million in contracts to be awarded to national equity intermediaries or “Opportunity partnerships.” DOL anticipates awarding 3-5 contracts which will be for 1 year of work with the option to renew for up to 4 additional years.

The contracts are intended to increase representation of women, people of color, and people with disabilities within Registered Apprenticeship, with DOL intending to award at least one contract to address the needs of each of these target populations. Contractors are able to target, within these populations, the needs of youth, low-income workers, Limited English Proficient, Immigrants or any other groups the contractor identifies. Contractors must be able to evidence industry expertise and national scope of the equity intermediary.

To be eligible, contractors must –

  1. Engage with partners such as employers, labor-management organizations, community based organization, educational providers, and the workforce development system to form “opportunity partnerships” at either the national or regional level;
  2. Create and share tools that increase access, entry and retention of underrepresented populations in Registered Apprenticeship;
  3. Provide technical assistance to sponsors of programs with the goal of helping these programs develop plans to improve diversity and inclusion in their programs and among program graduates;
  4. Work with other DOL initiatives, such as ApprenticeshipUSA LEADERs, a sector-based network of apprenticeship leaders, to support the diversification of apprenticeship programs across the country and across industries.

Contractors and Opportunity partnerships will be required to show increases to the percentage of individuals from their target population entering pre-apprenticeship or preparatory training, the percentage of apprentices entering  a Registered Apprenticeship Program, an increase in the number of sponsors of programs who are committed to expanding equity among apprenticeship programs, and the percentage of new apprentices who receive supportive services to support entrance and retention in apprenticeship programs.

In the solicitation, DOL requires applicants to detail how their work would align with regulations in 29 CFR 30, rules covering Equal Employment Opportunity in Apprenticeship. DOL is currently finalizing these rules, with an anticipated release date this fall, and NSC submitted comments to the Employment and Training Administration during comment period last year. These regulations are intended to update the regulations for the first time since 1978, and NSC recommended that updates include alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and additional guidance for sponsors on the selection of Apprentices.