ED launches new workforce training grants for states

U.S. Education Department (Photo: Matthew Dembicki)

The U.S. Education Department on Friday announced a new CARES Act-funded grant program focused on short-term job training for in-demand occupations and entrepreneurship development.

The CARES Act provided $307.5 million for discretionary grants, which Education Secretary Betsey DeVos plans to divide between two competitions: $127.5 million for the Reimagine Workforce Preparation Grant and $180 million for the Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant, which ED announced in April.

“America’s colleges and universities are a national treasure, but it is time for them to reinvent themselves and to be more responsive to the needs of their students and local communities,” DeVos said in a press release. “That includes providing lower-cost options that leverage the expertise of local business leaders and better embrace technological change. Through the Reimagine Workforce Preparation grants, we are empowering them, along with their community partners, educators, business leaders and entrepreneurs, to do just that. Our goal is to help workers and entrepreneurs get back on their feet and get our economy back up and running as quickly as possible.”

The new workforce grant competition is open to all states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. To apply, states must demonstrate a burden created by the coronavirus pandemic and propose a project that will support people living and working in their communities.

The program will have two tracks:

Expand educational opportunities through short-term, career pathways or sector-based education and training programs.

  • States can propose to develop or expand short-term education programs, including career pathways programs, to help prepare unemployed or underemployed individuals for high-demand jobs in their community or region
  • States also can pitch to develop or expand industry sector-based education and training programs that lead to a credential that employers in a given sector recognize and reward

Support local entrepreneurship through small business incubators.

  • States may propose ways to help colleges and universities make their faculty, staff and facilities more accessible to small businesses in their communities, and to ensure that institutions can sustain their operations at a time when enrollments are declining and campus buildings may be underused, including through the creation of small business incubators that are on the campus of, or affiliated with, one or more colleges and universities in the state.

Each state’s workforce board may submit one proposal, with the highest-scoring proposals being funded. States hardest hit by COVID-19 disruptions and projects that seek to address the needs of minority-serving institutions and distressed communities will be a priority, according to ED.

The deadline for state applications is August 24. A pre-application webinar for prospective applicants is scheduled for June 29. ED aims to award grants by October.

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