Resources for Developing Workforce Innovation Fund Grant Applications

January 20, 2012

The Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) is a grant competition that will provide state workforce agencies and local workforce boards (or consortia of these groups) a total of $98.5 million to invest in service delivery strategies and/or system-level reform that improve employment and educational outcomes for workers, create efficiencies in the workforce system, and foster strong cooperation across education, training, and human services systems. Applications are due March 22, 2012 and should follow the requirements found in the Solicitation for Grant Applications.

The resources found on this page are for those applying for funding under the Workforce Innovation Fund. Included in the list below are resources regarding promising state- and local-level models that align with the goals of the WIF and help create pathways to postsecondary and economic success for low-skilled workers.

CLASP has long supported system-level reform through our Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success, our work providing technical assistance to cross-system state policy teams through the Shifting Gears initiative, our Youth Policy work and as convener of the Communities Collaborating to Reconnect Youth Network.

In the solicitation for grant applications, DOL has outlined four requirements for innovations supoported by the Fund. Strategies should: 

  • Deliver services efficiently and serve vulnerable populations, including low-income, low-skilled, and long-term unemployed adult and youth workers by helping them obtain employment, academic and industry-recognized credentials, and improve their basic skills;
  • Support system-level reform that advances collaboration across workforce development, education, human services, social insurance, and economic development programs;
  • Include partnerships with employers or industry sectors with existing and future workforce needs; and
  • Address how the supported innovations will be evaluated and how “lessons learned” will be used to take effective practices to scale across workforce systems in other states and local areas.

Importantly, these grants are “intended to seed innovation in the regular WIA formula programs” (page 12 of the SGA). Applicants should clarify how regular formula funds (as well as grant funding) will be used to support these innovations and sustain them.

Resources from CLASP

Farther Faster: Six Promising Programs Show How Career Pathway Bridges Help Basic Skills Students Earn Credentials That  Matter(August 2011)
This brief highlights six promising programs that show how career pathway bridges help lower-skilled students move farther and faster along college and career paths through dual enrollment in linked basic skills and occupational certificate courses. These models are explicitly supported as a promising innovation on page 4 of the SGA.

Funding Career Pathways and Career Pathway Bridges: A Federal Policy Toolkit for States(October 2010)
Applicants to the WIF are encouraged to use braided funding in the solicitation for grant applications to ensure sustainability of program delivery and funding (see page 3 of the SGA). CLASP developed this toolkit to help interagency state teams identify and use federal resources to develop a “braided funding” strategy to support career pathways and career pathway bridge models. This toolkit can help state teams identify specific activities that can be funded through the use of ten critical education, workforce, and human services federal funding streams.

Shifting Gears: State Innovation to Advance Workers and the Economy in the Midwest(July 2010)
States in the Shifting Gears initiative are engaged in system reform in adult education, workforce development, and postsecondary education to increase the number of low-skilled workers with a postsecondary credential and address barriers to program completion for lower-skilled adults. This report by CLASP highlights the work of three such states (Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin) that are pursuing career pathways or bridge models at the state level as the focus of their work.

Beyond Basic Skills:  State Strategies to Connect Low-Skilled Adults to an Employer-Valued Postsecondary Education(March 2011)
This CLASP report includes a detailed write-up of six policy strategies that have shown promise in increasing the number of low-skilled adults that transition to postsecondary-level coursework and complete an academic or industry-recognized credential (pages 6-14). A comprehensive strategy to increasing the number of credentials in the state should coordinate more than one of these state policy approaches. Also included in this report is a short overview of the research that has been done on the effectiveness of these approaches (pages 5-7).

Building a Comprehensive Youth Employment Delivery System: Examples of Effective Practice(February 2010)
Many communities have shown tremendous commitment to youth employment. The return on investment and effort, however, can be greatly multiplied if federal youth funds, discretionary funding, resources from other youth serving systems, and community resources are brought together to build comprehensive youth employment system. This CLASP report identifies the key components of an effective delivery system and provides examples and contact informa­tion for communities with effective systems.

Building Pathways to Postsecondary Success for Low Income Young Men of Color: A Community Intervention Strategy (November 2010)
Building postsecondary pathways to good jobs for low-income young men of color will require stretching the paradigms of our secondary, postsecondary, workforce, and adult education systems, as well as greater collaboration among these systems. Aligning systems and programming across funding streams, building partnerships, and creating new pathways are complex endeavors. But there are many innovative approaches that have shown promise and can be implemented and taken to scale. This report outlines elements of a community intervention strategy, including essential elements for successful systems building and programmatic intervention (pages 3-10).

Creating Postsecondary Pathways to Good Jobs for Young High School Dropouts (October 2008)
Funds from the WIF can be used to connect multiple systems serving disconnected youth to provide employment and educational services. This CLASP paper advocates expansion and better integration of efforts to connect high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24 to pathways to postsecondary credentials that have value in the labor market. The paper highlights examples of innovations in policy, program delivery, pedagogy in adult education, youth development and dropout recovery, and postsecondary education that should be built upon in developing more robust and successful dropout recovery and postsecondary education policies and practices to open the door to higher wages and career opportunities for this population.

Learning from the Youth Opportunity Experience: Building Delivery Capacity in Distressed Communities (February 2006)
In 2000, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded significant Youth Opportunity (YO) Grants to 36 high-poverty urban, rural, and Native American communities. The grants were designed to serve all young people in these areas, regardless of income or connection to school or work. Communities were required to assess and integrate existing youth-serving systems and agencies to support education, work exposure, youth development, and other services for young people. This report, based on a survey of 22 of the 36 sites, examines the approaches' strengths, challenges, and lessons learned, and offers recommendations for policy and practice. The appendix of this report contains a brief description of the collaborative efforts in which these YO communities were engaged.

TANF Education and Training Resources
Due to a combination of TANF work participation rate requirements, various federal regulations, and a general "work first" approach, many states have provided few opportunities for TANF recipients to participate in education and training.  However, some states have bucked this trend by creating successful education and training programs in spite of limits imposed by federal rules.  This page includes resources that highlight innovative state strategies, opportunities, and CLASP federal policy recommendations on education and training within the TANF program. 

Resources from Other Organizations and the Federal Government

Online Learning: Does it Help Low-Income and Underprepared Students?(Community College Research Center, March 2011)
Funds from the WIF can be used to support the expansion of online job training and distance learning. Applicants who choose to include distance learning as part of their application should carefully consider the use and design of these types of programs to best meet the needs of low-income, low-skilled workers. This review of studies of online learning suggests that some underprepared students may not fare well in online-only courses and offers ideas about how to implement policies and practices to improve outcomes for vulnerable students using distance learning.

Program Memorandum: Use of Funds Provided Under the Adult Education and  Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) for Integrated Education and Training(Department of Education, June 2010)
This non-regulatory guidance from The Department of Education’s Office of Vocational Education clarifies how funding under Title II of WIA can be used to support integrated education and training models that combine basic skills education with occupational training.

Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration(Department of Labor, 2011)
This information from the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration describes seven grants to identify innovative transitional employment strategies that work for individuals with barriers to employment.

Technical Assistance

CLASP staff is available to provide technical assistance to states developing applications for the Workforce Innovation Fund. Please contact Marcie Foster atmwmfoster@clasp.orgwith any questions.


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