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Today, President Obama and Vice President Biden visited the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center near Pittsburgh, to highlight New Century Careers, a collaboration with local manufacturers to identify skill shortages for entry-level machinists and other manufacturing workers, that partners with local workforce boards, community colleges, state agencies and community organizations to train and re-train area workers with the skills needed to fill good-paying manufacturing jobs.
During the visit, the President and Vice President announced $550 million in grants to fund training partnerships between employers, community colleges and apprenticeship programs. Of the $550 million, $450 million is dedicated to the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants. The remaining $100 million will fund an American Apprenticeship Grants program, aimed at boosting the number of apprenticeship programs. National Skills Coalition applauds the administration’s efforts to make occupational training programs more job-driven and responsive to worker and employer needs.
This announcement represents another piece of the skills agenda President Obama outlined in his State of the Union address. That agenda, which focuses on making occupational training job-driven, includes an across-the-board review of federal job training programs, led by the Vice President, and announcements around grants to put the long-term unemployed back to work, and to develop career pathways for high school students.
The TAACCCT grants are awarded to community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education—including consortia of two or more institutions—to provide education and training programs of less than two years to improve the skills of workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade. The grants are administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) in partnership with the Department of Education.
In furtherance of the administration’s goal of promoting job-driven training, the fourth and final round of the TAACCCT grants will, for the first time, award larger grants to applicants who propose to address three broad goals: (1) scaling in-demand job training across the country through national industry partnerships; (2) advancing education and training to ensure seamless progression along a career pathway; and (3) improving statewide employment and education data integration and use.
DOL, in its Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA), places particular emphasis on establishing meaningful employer and industry engagement. The SGA requires applicants to work with at least two employers, as well as a regional industry representative for each sector served by the program. At a minimum, applicants must demonstrate that the employers and industry representative will serve on the project’s leadership team, help implement program strategies and goals, identify and map the necessary skills and competencies for the programs, assist with curriculum development and program design, and where appropriate, assist with the design of an assessment or credential that will assess industry skill needs. Employer and industry partners may also develop industry-recognized credentials needed for targeted jobs, provide leveraged resources to support education and training, or commit to hire, promote, or retain qualified program participants.
The SGA also uses multiple strategies to encourage colleges to collect and use data on student outcomes, echoing several of Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s (WDQC) – a project of National Skills Coalition – recommendations for state data systems. Applicants may request extra funding for a few specified purposes, including enhancing statewide data capacity. All applicants are required to explain how they will track and use student outcome data, and consortia applicants must submit plans for publicizing outcomes on scorecards for prospective students.
The TAACCCT program was originally established as part of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) reauthorization under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As part of the 2010 budget reconciliation bill, Congress appropriated $2 billion for the four-year period including fiscal years (FY) 2011-2014 to support the program.
This is the final round of the TAACCCT grants. The administration has proposed replacing the TAACCCT grants with a new, four-year, $6 billion Community College Job-Driven Training Fund grant program—that would include $2 billion to expand registered apprenticeships—but enactment requires congressional action.
TAACCCT grant applications must be submitted to DOL by July 7, 2014.
Expanding Apprenticeship Programs
The President and Vice President also announced $100 million for American Apprenticeship grants that will become available this fall. The grants will facilitate partnerships between employers, labor organizations, community colleges, community-based organizations, training providers, state and local governments, and other stakeholders to launch apprenticeship models in new high-growth fields, align apprenticeships to pathways, and scale up successful apprenticeship models. The apprenticeship grants will be funded using H-1B visa fees, and will be targeted to industries or occupations where H-1B visas are in-demand. Additionally, the administration has received commitments from various businesses, unions, and philanthropic organizations to help expand apprenticeship programs.
The administration in recent months has been increasingly focused on expanding and scaling the apprenticeship model. Last week, the Vice President announced another apprenticeship initiative, the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium, which will help graduates of registered apprenticeships receive college credit for their apprenticeship training.