Apprenticeship grantees, Work-Study waivers announced

The U.S. Education and Labor departments on Wednesday announced the community colleges and other institutions selected to receive grants and waivers through two programs designed to provide flexibility around apprenticeships and Federal Work-Study programs.

Five community colleges and state systems are among the 28 public-private partnerships that will receive grants totaling nearly $100 million through the Apprenticeship: Closing the Skills Gap grant program. The grants aim to support large-scale expansions of apprenticeship in industries including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information technology.

The five institutions and their grant amounts are:

“For Americans who want an alternative to the traditional bachelor’s degree, apprenticeships are a way to learn valuable skills that lead to good-paying careers,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said in a press release. “Companies across the country tell me that their greatest challenge today is finding the skilled workers they need. This funding will bolster America’s competitiveness by adding more skilled workers to fill millions of open jobs today and in the future.”

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DOL said the apprenticeship grant program will support the training of more than 92,000 individuals in new or expanded apprenticeship programs for a range of employers, including small and medium-sized businesses. It supports “apprenticeships that include a paid, work-based learning component and a required educational or instructional component that results in the issuance of an industry-recognized credential,” the department said. It added that the apprenticeships also must meet appropriate quality assurance standards.

H-1B fees fund the program. Other lead grantees include labor unions, labor-management organizations and nonprofit trade, industry or employer associations. The awards ranging from $500,000 to $6 million each. The grants require a corresponding 45 percent match.

FWS pilot program

Meanwhile, the Education Department announced the 190 institutions — including more than 70 associate-degree-granting institutions — that will receive waivers to rules for the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program. The goal of the so-called experimental site program aims to allow more students to gain on-the-job experience with employers in their field of study.

The selected institutions can use FWS funds to support more students working in the private sector and, for the first time, allow them to pay low-income students for work experiences required by their academic programs, such as student teaching and clinical rotations.

“We know that early, meaningful work experience can be an important stepping stone toward students obtaining good jobs and having successful careers,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “For too long, Federal Work-Study has put up artificial barriers between education and industry and deprived students from gaining useful experience in their field of study. Rather than working the dorm cafeteria line, students–particularly low-income students–will be able to ‘earn and learn’ in ways that will set them up for future success.”

Related article: Better work experiences for Work-Study students

During award year 2016-2017, about 3,000 colleges and universities provided more than 600,000 students with FWS opportunities, but less than one-tenth of one percent supported off-campus employment with private sector employers, according to the department. It added that current regulations also require private-sector employers, including small businesses, to pay a higher portion of wages than on-campus employment or nonprofit organizations, “further raising barriers to relevant work experience.”

The pilot program will help assess whether students are better served when they are paid for work-based learning and allowed access to off-campus FWS jobs that align with their program, as measured by student retention, completion and improved job opportunities after graduation, the department said.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.