B - Readily funds technology as part of an award
Employment and Training Administration (ETA)
The Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants program (referred to as Strengthening Community Colleges or SCC) will build the capacity of community colleges to collaborate with employers and the public workforce development system to meet local and regional labor market demand for a skilled workforce. The purpose of this grant is (1) to increase the capacity and responsiveness of community colleges to address the skill development needs of employers and dislocated and unemployed workers, incumbent workers, and new entrants to the workforce; (2) to offer this spectrum of workers and other individuals accelerated career pathways that enable them to gain skills and transition from unemployment to (re)employment quickly; and (3) to address the new challenges associated with the COVID-19 health crisis that necessitate social distancing practices and expanding online and technology-enabled learning and migrating services to a virtual environment.
Successful applicants will actively engage employers through partnerships with industry to enhance career pathways, create and refine curricula development, offer work-based learning opportunities, such as Registered Apprenticeships, and leverage resources. In doing so, applicants are encouraged to build on successful ongoing industry sector strategies. These sector strategies will target one or more specific industries, and work to meet the workforce needs of employers in the sector(s), while supporting dislocated and unemployed workers, incumbent workers, and new entrants to the workforce in attaining the necessary skills and credentials. Successful applicants will develop, expand, or improve education and training programs informed by real-time labor market information obtained through state and local workforce development boards and feedback from employer partners.
Central to these grants is the focus on capacity building for institutions, and—for consortium grantees—on advancing innovation and systems change that occurs both within an institution and for a consortium of community colleges. Both capacity building and systems change build on the lessons learned through the Department's past investments in community colleges, specifically the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program. Some key priorities advanced through TAACCCT that should be leveraged in the current project are (1) the advancement of evidence-based education and training strategies; (2) the alignment of curriculum and credentials with industry demand, particularly through sector-based career pathway development; (3) the development of effective accelerated learning models; (4) the use of technology-related and online training delivery; and (5) the expansion of student supports critical to completing training.
History of Funding
Past awards are available to view here: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ETA/skillstraining/SCC-Overview-and-Abstracts.pdf
SCC Core Elements: To ensure that SCC projects accomplish the goals stated, the Department will fund applications that address, in their proposals, the SCC Core Elements as follows:
Core Element 1: Evidence-Based Design: The Department is committed to funding programs that are likely to improve education and employment outcomes for program participants. Successful applicants will develop strategies based on the existing evidence base, and will be committed to using data for the continuous improvement of programs. Grants awarded in the SCC program will support the development of innovative program models that must be evaluated so that, in the future, institutions can replicate and further test practices that are promising and identify and strengthen practices in need of improvement.
Applicants must base their program design on a level of evidence that is appropriate to the project proposed. Applicants that propose to replicate or adapt existing, evidence-based strategies should cite strong/high or moderate evidence of effectiveness from prior research to support the proposed project design. Applicants that propose to develop new, untested strategies should cite preliminary research findings, related research findings, and/or strong theory to support the design of the project. Appendix A provides information on several public clearinghouses that contain reviews of research studies, provide ratings of the quality of the evidence within a subset of those studies, and define the ratings categories (e.g., strong”) noted above. Applicants may use one or more of these clearinghouses to cite research supporting their program model or identify another clearinghouse or database that rates studies based on the strength of their design. In addition, the Department encourages applicants to incorporate the relevant findings from the cited studies into their results-based project design.
Core Element 2: Sector Strategies and Employer Engagement: To ensure that the sector partnerships under this FOA play a transformational role, the Department expects that SCC-funded projects will deepen employer engagement at all levels of program design and implementation, focusing in particular on increasing employer involvement at the strategic level. Successful applicants will work with the local and/or state workforce partners to identify one or more industry sector(s) in which they will focus and include the required employer partners. Grantees will ensure that they are actively engaging the required employer partners in implementing the sector strategy within six key areas: (1) providing leadership to the project in setting strategic direction; (2) informing the identification of and mapping the necessary skills and competencies for the program(s); (3) providing work-based learning opportunities, including on-the-job training and Registered Apprenticeship; (4) assisting with curriculum development and program design; (5) where appropriate, informing the design of an assessment or validating credentials that will address industry skill needs; and (6) providing resources, such as mentors, the donation of facilities, faculty, equipment, or other contributions to support the proposed project. Projects funded under this grant program will maintain relationships with employers and regional industry representatives throughout the duration of the project with the intention of sustaining them beyond the grant period.
Core Element 3: Enhanced Career Pathway Programs and Accelerated Learning Strategies: While Core Element 5, below, focuses on career pathway development at the systems level, Core Element 3 emphasizes making enhancements to an existing career pathway program. At both the program and systems levels, the primary aim of career pathways under this FOA is to enable faster credentialing and entrance into the workforce for program participants. Single institution applicants will be reporting participant-level data for a cohort of participants that are enrolled in the enhanced career pathway program.
In light of the current imperative, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to shift educational instruction to a virtual learning environment, applicants may choose to focus their efforts under this core element to building their capacity to facilitate online conversion and to become fully operational within a context of distance learning. Alternatively, applicants that have the capacity to operate effectively within an online learning environment may choose to redesign instruction within their sector-based pathway programs to incorporate more technology-enabled learning.
Core Element 4: Strategic Alignment with the Workforce Development System: An important capacity-building goal for community colleges is to increase their agility and responsiveness to the needs of employers and workers in their regional economies. To achieve this goal, community colleges must work closely with employers, the workforce development system (workforce development boards, American Job Centers, the Adult Education and Literacy Program authorized under title II of WIOA, and other services providers), and other educational entities, particularly secondary institutions that administer career and technical education. These joint efforts must seek to build capacity and to strengthen systems and structures that organize workforce development along sector-based career pathways, and to create strategies that are more efficient by removing silos and minimizing duplication within and across federal, state, and local programs. A key aim of the provision of coordinated services is to help individuals, particularly those with barriers to employment, overcome those challenges and enter the skilled workforce.
Applicants must secure a commitment from one or more public workforce development system partners and to integrate workforce efforts to build capacity and/or undertake systems change. In addition, applicants are encouraged to collaborate with philanthropic organizations, business-related and other nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations, and/or labor organizations as needed to achieve their stated goals. The Department expects that applicants will perform outreach to, and gather information on, relevant entities in the state that the project will serve, including entities that can provide data on the characteristics and skill needs of participants. An important objective of this outreach is to identify existing supports and services already available to participants in the local area or region, which are suitable for applicants to leverage.
Core Element 5: Innovative Systems Change (Consortium Applicants only): Systems change with respect to workforce development refers to efforts and initiatives that go beyond providing direct services to individual jobseekers and aim to transform how organizations effectively support employers and the workforce.” With the ultimate aim of improving worker and employer outcomes, systems-change goals for improving how the system functions may include increased partner collaboration, active industry engagement, data-driven decision-making, and a local workforce development system marked by improved accessibility and quality, as well as scale and sustainability.
The Department aims for this grant program to catalyze systemic change in workforce development through collaboration and new ways of thinking. In proposing strategies that build college capacity to offer innovative educational programs that meet the needs of participants, applicants must choose one of the following two focus areas around which to design their underlying projects: Accelerated Learning Pathways or Statewide Data Integration and Use. Each focus area is central to the community college system's capacity to meet local and regional labor market demand for a skilled workforce, the fundamental goal of this FOA. We describe each area in more detail, below. Under Core Element 5, consortium applicants must choose one of the following options as their focus for systems change under the SCC program.
- Accelerated Learning Pathways: Applicants who select this option must undertake career pathways development or enhancement work at the systems level, in addition to the program level.
- Statewide Data Integration and Use: Successful applications who choose this option will propose a plan to improve the integration and use of education and workforce development system data.
Note: Single institutions must address Core Elements 1-4. Consortium leads must address Core Elements 1-5.