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From Workforce 2023 Guide

U.S. Commerce Funds Give Jolt to Locally Driven Workforce Development Initiatives

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo high-fives North Carolina A&T mechanical engineering student Sydney Parker as Assistant U.S. Commerce Secretary for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo, left, and N.C. Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders look on at the Harold L. Martin Sr. Engineering Research & Innovation Complex in August 2022.
Photo courtesy of North Carolina A&T State University

by Adam Bruns

fter reviewing 509 applicants from across the United States and its territories, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in August 2022 announced grant awards to 32 industry-led workforce training partnerships as part of the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge funded by President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Administered by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, the Challenge aims to “enable communities across the country to invest in innovative approaches to workforce development that will secure job opportunities for more than 50,000 Americans” across 15 industries.

Core themes to the awards were strengthening supply chains (12 awardees); supplying workforce to support projects funded by the massive Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (13 awardees); strengthening healthcare and public health (15 awardees); expanding the IT workforce (11 awardees); and building the workforce for climate-related industries (eight awardees). The highest projected job placements will come from healthcare (29%), IT (15%) and manufacturing (14%).

The largest award was $23.9 million to the State of Connecticut’s Office of Workforce Strategy (OWS) in Hartford for its Sectoral Partnerships Initiative, which aims to “train and place thousands of workers — particularly from historically underserved communities — in high-demand jobs in four priority sector areas: manufacturing, information technology, healthcare and biomedicine … In order to design training systems that are employer-led, the awardee has secured over 50 employer letters of commitment, including from General Dynamics - Electric Boat, Yale New Haven Health and Hartford Healthcare.”

Among several programs that will put leverage the new funds are CareerConneCT — OWS’s flagship initiative focused on short-term training — and the Eastern CT Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative (MPI), which earned the 2020 National Association of Workforce Boards Chair’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Partnership “for demonstrating the value of collaboration by working together to advance the future of workforce development” through: a) industry assessments to identify promising candidates; b) industry-designed and validated training curriculum; and c) alignment to the immediate hiring needs of employer partners.

Among other large Good Jobs Challenge award recipients were:

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, $23.7 million: The largest Historically Black College and University in the nation will lead STEPs4GROWTH, a clean energy sector employment project spanning 16 distressed counties in the state. Employers in the coalition include but are not limited to Siemens Energy, Duke Energy, Blue Ridge Power and Strata Clean Energy. Four clean energy sectors (energy efficiency, renewables, clean vehicles, and grid and storage) will be initially supported in four regions of the state (Charlotte, Greensboro, Halifax and Northeast North Carolina Coastal), with statewide expansion to come. Among the drivers for clean energy expansion is Executive Order 246 signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in January 2022, which calls for updated goals for emissions reduction, resiliency and grid/transportation electrification, and calls for further investments in EVs, charging stations, environmental equity, energy efficiency, renewables, batteries and storage, and cybersecurity. “Through this important project, North Carolina A&T will play a leading role in preparing well-trained workers to fill the many skilled jobs in America’s rapidly growing clean energy sector,” said North Carolina A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “The prescient work of A&T engineering faculty and principal investigators on this grant, Balakrishna Gokaraju and Greg Monty, has culminated in a novel program for delivering education credentials through stackable certificates.”

Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Educational and Industrial Development Institute, $23.5 million: “The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association’s (OMA) project is supporting the growth of a diverse, new generation of skilled manufacturing workers in partnership with over 100 employers including Honda, Lincoln Electric and Kenworth. OMA is diversifying an aging, male-dominated industry though robust partnerships with leading community-based organizations, to recruit and retain women, urban populations, and people from Appalachian coal communities into quality careers in manufacturing. Backed by millions of dollars in outside funding, OMA will scale its evidence based Entry-Level Learn and Earn (ELLE) model across its network of 16 sector partnerships, with backbone organizations including the Appalachian Ohio Manufacturers’ Coalition, Ohio State University, and the Lorain County Manufacturing Sector Partnership.”

Washington Student Achievement Council (Washington State), $23.5 million:
Through the Washington Jobs Initiative, the Washington Student Achievement Council (the state’s higher education agency) “is bolstering its economy by connecting jobseekers with local, quality jobs through its career pathway project, Career Connect Washington (CCW), which supports the state’s largest industries. CCW is a coalition of industry, organized labor, state government and other stakeholders. Several major Washington employers have signed letters of commitment including Kaiser Permanente, Providence, BECU and McKinstry. EDA’s investment in the Washington Jobs Initiative will enhance the CCW infrastructure by building sectoral partnerships in six high-demand sectors: advanced manufacturing and aerospace; construction; energy and clean technology; financial services; healthcare, and information technology and cybersecurity. Backbone organizations include but are not limited to SEIU’s Training Fund, Washington Bankers Association, and CleanTech Alliance.”

WTIA Workforce Institute (Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington), $23.5 million: Through the “Managing Apprenticeship as a Service: From Talent Consumption to Creation” project, WTIA Workforce Institute, also known as Apprenti, will help 11 regions across the country develop their local technology workforces with a focus on diverse talent pools and underrepresented communities. “Building on its proven track record of successfully carrying out apprenticeship programs in the technology sector, Apprenti will train workers for high-paying cloud computing jobs and increase economic competitiveness and growth in the regions it supports,” WTIA says. Employer partners include Boeing and Amazon Web Services.

Good Jobs Challenge BG-one

Economic Development and Industrial Corporation of Boston, $23 million: “In partnership with over 100 local employers, including Mass General Brigham and the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, EDIC will create demand-driven pathways into quality childcare, healthcare, and energy jobs” through the Greater Boston Region (GBR) Regional Workforce Training System (RWTS). “Its childcare sectoral partnership, led by Community Advocates for Young Learners (CAYL) Institute, will develop a pipeline of licensed childcare professionals as a notable strategy to bolster the care economy in the region. Its healthcare sector partnership, led by the Boston Healthcare Careers Consortium (HCC), will build off the prominence of the local health industry to place talent into healthcare careers with advancement opportunities. Its clean energy sector partnership, led by Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving Institution, will partner with local unions to develop skilled journeymen workers to develop clean energy infrastructure.”

Fresno County Economic Development Corporation, $23 million: “Built 4 Scale unites dozens of employers, such as T-Mobile, VF Outdoor, Sierra Agra, and Gibson Wine Company, and key stakeholders in California’s Central Valley to develop the local workforce and strengthen its economy. This project aims to bolster and diversify an economy still dominant in agriculture by placing residents into high-quality jobs in four growth industries. Its financial services partnership, led by Fresno K-16 Collaborative, will build paid training opportunities including pre-apprenticeships and Registered Apprenticeships with leading employers. Its manufacturing partnership, led by San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance and Generation USA, will provide bootcamp training and individualized training pathways to meet demand from hundreds of local manufacturers. Its transportation, distribution, and logistics partnership, led by Madera Workforce Board, will meet demand from various local small- and medium-sized businesses that support two nearby port cities. Its building and construction partnership, led by Fresno Workforce Development Board, will build on over a decade of partnership with unions and local employers by placing hundreds of individuals into well-paying jobs in the trades.”

Florida Gulf Coast University Board of Trustees, $22.9 million: “In partnership with backbone organization Collaboratory (formerly known as Southwest Florida Community Foundation), Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) will accelerate credential-attainment and job placement in four leading local industries to support Southwest Florida’s economy,” says the project narrative, written before Hurricane Ian made such support even more vital. “FGCU plans to recruit rural, Black, and Hispanic job seekers into pipelines that result in industry-recognized credentials and a career with local employers, including Lee Health, NCH Healthcare System, and K-12 school districts in five local counties. FGCU is also partnering with employers that are strengthening American supply chains: Airglades, which is developing a new cargo airport, and Arthrex, which is addressing global shortages in critical medical devices. With attention to equity, FGCU will work in partnership with Goodwill and United Way, to provide wraparound supports and to design systems that meet the needs of local underserved communities.”

Bridging the Divide

In November the U.S. Department of Education launched “Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success,” a new initiative supported by the Departments of Commerce and Labor “to increase and expand access to high-quality training programs to help young Americans pursue jobs in today’s in-demand fields and be prepared for careers of the future.”

Gina RaimondoCareer-connected education programs are essential to the success of the American economy and will spur a new generation of researchers, engineers, and manufacturers in critical industries.”

— Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Nov. 14, 2022, on the launch of “Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success,” a new initiative supporting career pathways in high-demand fields

Backed by $120 billion dedicated to K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan and Perkins Act Funding (dedicated to career & technical education), the effort seeks to better connect K-12, postsecondary and workforce programs. “This includes expanding access to skills-based learning and training pathways, like Registered Apprenticeships in key industries such as advanced manufacturing, automotive, and cybersecurity,” said the Department of Education. The launch included the announcement of $5.6 million in Perkins funding for a new program to expand work-based learning opportunities.

“It’s time we bridge the divide between our K-12 systems and our college, career, and industry preparation programs, which leave too many students behind and perpetuate inequities in our most diverse, underserved and rural communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “An education system reimagined for the 21st century engages youth of all ages in the power of career-connected learning and provides every student with the opportunity to gain real-life work experience, earn college credits, and make progress towards an industry credential before they graduate high school.”

The initiative builds on President Biden’s FY 2023 Budget proposal, which invests $200 million in Career-Connected High Schools and also includes $1.4 billion for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. This includes an increase of $20 million for CTE state grants.

Adam Bruns
Managing Editor of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns has served as managing editor of Site Selection magazine since February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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