Sweeping Change is in the Works for How Job-Training Dollars are Allocated

June 22, 2014

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will announce a plan on Tuesday to change how the federal government allocates millions of job-training dollars to colleges and other organizations.

The plan, the culmination of a review that President Obama announced in his State of the Union address, will require applicants for some $1.4-billion in grants to follow a "job-driven checklist" that calls for increased collaboration with employers, more on-the-job training, and better tracking of employment outcomes, among other elements.

The plan’s release comes roughly three months after the president and vice president appeared at the Community College of Allegheny County’s West Hills Center, outside Pittsburgh, to announce $550-million in grants to prepare American workers for in-demand jobs.

The bulk of the money, roughly $450-million, came from the fourth and final round of competitive grants under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program. That $2-billion program, which was wrapped into the 2010 legislation to overhaul the health-care system, helps two-year colleges train displaced workers for high-skill, high-wage occupations.
The other $100-million in competitive grants draws on existing Department of Labor funds and will be used to replicate successful apprenticeships and create new ones in high-growth fields. The money can also be used to link apprenticeships to college credit or industry certifications.

A week before that joint appearance, Mr. Biden announced the creation of a consortium of colleges and business and labor leaders that will focus on providing college credit for apprenticeships.

What Works

Tuesday’s announcement focuses less on creating new resources than on reallocating existing ones. But the vice president will announce $200-million in Department of Agriculture grants for 10 pilot projects to test employment and training programs for beneficiaries of federal nutrition assistance and $25-million in Department of Labor funds to create an online skills academy offering open online courses.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, White House officials said Mr. Biden’s plan would complement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which Congress passed this month and President Obama is expected to sign into law on Tuesday. That long-overdue bill would streamline the nation’s job-training system, ending 15 federally funded programs and shrinking state and local work-force-investment boards. It also would apply a standard set of outcome measures to evaluate all federal job-training programs.

Lobbyists for community colleges had not seen the plan by late Monday, but Andy Van Kleunen, executive director of the National Skills Coalition, a Washington-based advocacy group, praised the president for making "job-driven training a pillar of his economic-opportunity agenda" and said Mr. Biden’s plan would "allow communities to respond to the needs of local industry, and more effectively help a range of students and workers access skilled jobs with good wages."

"The focus on education-industry partnerships in the vice president’s plan aligns with what businesses have told us works. These partnerships have had a big local impact, but they’ve struggled to grow and replicate without the weight of federal policy behind them," he said. "The vice president’s plan adds that weight and builds on provisions of the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act which, if taken to scale, could multiply these job-driven training partnerships nationally."

In conjunction with the report on the vice president’s plan, the administration will release on Tuesday an interactive map highlighting successful academic-industry partnerships, including the Cyber Center at Maryland’s Anne Arundel Community College.