Workforce Innovation Fund Announces New Grant Competition

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the availability of $53 million in new grants through its Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF).

Eligible applicants include state workforce agencies and local workforce investment boards.  According to the solicitation, as in previous WIF competitions (and consistent with similar innovation-focused initiatives like the Investing in Innovation program at the Department of Education), funding is being offered in three different tiers based on their associated level of evidence:

  • New and Untested Ideas (Project Type A): Grant awards up to $3 million.
  • Promising Ideas (Project Type B): Grant awards up to $6 million.
  • Adapting Proven Ideas (Project Type C): Grant awards up to $12 million.

The Department expects to award 8-15 new grants in September. It also expects to announce a second grant opportunity for states engaging in “large-scale systemic reform” some time this fall.

Status Report

According to Department, this is the second round of grants awarded by the fund. The first round was divided between 26 grants worth $147 million made in July 2012 and another two more focused on pay-for-success workforce strategies last October that were worth about $12 million each.

The fund has supported its grantees in a variety of ways. In March, it convened them for a 2-day meeting in Washington, DC that included workshops, plenaries, and peer-learning sessions (see here for slides and related materials). It has also established an online portal and a related discussion forum on LinkedIn.

Because the program was established in large part to build an evidence base, WIF has worked to make sure this investment pays off. In 2012, it hired a National Evaluation Coordinator, Abt Associates, to help its existing grantees with their evaluations. It also asked Abt to create an evaluation toolkit for prospective applicants, including both a report and series of videos.

Finally, the initiative has begun sharing lessons learned with the broader workforce field through a separate series of videos and related resources (including one on data-driven innovations). This series follows an earlier brief on lessons learned published last year.

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