Workforce Innovation Fund Grants Announced

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has made 11 new grants totaling $50.7 million under the Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF).

The new grants, announced September 24, come on top of $171 million in previous grants made over the past two years, including two focused on pay-for-success strategies.

The grants require evaluations that “will help significantly increase the body of knowledge about the most effective strategies in workforce development,” according to DOL. Existing grantees are receiving help with their evaluations from Abt Associates, which is working under contract with the Department. So far, that help has included both a report (released in May) and a series of related videos.

The grants are part of a larger set of “job-driven training principles” that the Obama administration is applying to its jobs-related programs. Those principles include a focus on outcomes, data, and local flexibility. According to a White House fact sheet about the principles, examples include:

  • High-impact innovations in higher education. The Department of Education will waive particular federal student aid rules to enable the testing of innovative education models awarding degrees based on demonstrated skills rather than seat time, and the Department of Labor will award $25 million to create an online skills academy designed to prepare adult learners for in-demand careers.
  • Testing effective strategies for adult learners. The Department of Agriculture will award $200 million for up to 10 pilot projects to rigorously test employment and training programs. A partnership of employers, foundations, and non-profits is launching a national competition to crowd source for the best technologies to upskill this population.
  • Testing strategies for disconnected youth. The Administration will allow up to 10 state and local pilot programs to blend funds from multiple federal programs to test new models for serving disconnected youth, and the Department of Labor will use Job Corps’ demonstration authority to experiment with new models to improve outcomes for youth under age 20.
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