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Notice inviting proposals for promoting employer participation in School-to-Work (STW) systems

Billing Code 4510-30-M

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Employment and Training Administration


ACTION: Notice inviting proposals for promoting employer participation in School-to-Work (STW) systems.

SUMMARY: This notice contains all of the necessary information and forms to apply for grant funding. The Departments of Labor and Education jointly are accepting proposals for a new award in FY 97, as authorized under section 403 of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (the Act). This award will provide for coordination of the overall effort to engage employers in STW activities, the identification and collaboration with national business leaders to advocate for and promote the visibility of business participating in STW, the provision of technical assistance to business leaders, the dissemination of products and information related to employer participation in STW, and the marketing and dissemination of research findings related to employer participation in STW. The Departments believe that a targeted approach to employer involvement through a unified, singular and strategically managed award, has the potential to increase the number of employers participating in STW systems, build their capacity to influence and benefit from STW partnerships, and increase the ability of other STW stakeholders to develop effective, sustainable partnerships with employers.

DATES: Applications will be accepted commencing (date of publication). The closing date for receipt of applications is [45 days from the date of publication ], at 4 P.M., (Eastern Time) at the address below.

ADDRESSES: Applicants shall be mailed to U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Division of Acquisition and Assistance, Attention: Patricia Glover,

Reference: SGA/DAA 98-005, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room S-4203, Washington, D.C. 20210.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Questions should be faxed to Ms. Patricia A. Glover, Grants Management Specialist, Division of Acquisition and Assistance, Fax (202)219-8739. This is not a toll-free number. All inquiries should include the SGA number (DAA 98-005) and a contact name and phone number. This solicitation will also be published on the Internet, and the Employment Administration's Home Page at http://www.doleta.gov. Award notifications will also be published on this Home Page.

EMPLOYER TECHNICAL SUPPORT COORDINATION SOLICITATION

I. Purpose. To invite proposals to coordinate an array of national efforts to engage employers in STW and to provide technical support to STW partners that will increase and maximize employer participation in these partnerships.

II. Background. The School-to-Work Opportunities Act was signed into law by the President on May 4, 1994. Jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education, this Act is a new approach to education that seeks to better prepare all American Youth for careers in high skill, high wage jobs and to strengthen the linkages between what is learned in school with work. Under the Act, venture capital grants are provided to States and local communities to undertake systemic reform. Grants are for a limited duration with the Federal investment declining over time. These investments are intended to support the one-time costs of States and local communities to restructure learning experiences for all students. The Act also provides a set-aside of funds for national activities to support School-to-Work system building nationwide. These funds are used for technical assistance and capacity building, for outreach, and for research and evaluation. Section 403 of the Act, relating to training and technical assistance, specifically directs the Secretaries to "work in cooperation with...employers and their associations...to increase their capacity to develop and implement effective School-to-Work programs."

III. Statement of Work

Employer Participation in STW. Changes in the economy, technology and global competition are driving forces behind efforts to improve the academic performance and career preparedness of today's youth. Among its purposes, the National School-to-Work Act was enacted to: "utilize workplaces as active learning environments in the educational process by making employers joint partners with educators in providing opportunities for all students to participate in high quality, work-based learning experiences." Work based learning is one of the three key components within a STW system (school-based learning and connecting activities are the other two). At the early stages of STW implementation, one of the key considerations was to build employer participation in STW at such a scale and depth as to provide the vast number of work-based learning opportunities necessary for all of the nation's students to experience meaningful connections between the classroom and the workplace. Thus, an unprecedented scale of employer commitment and involvement in education is critical for the implementation and sustainability of STW systems.

Employers participate in STW systems through a number of different activities involving students, teachers and with State and local governing bodies. The Employer Participation Model, published by the National Employer Leadership Council (NELC), outlines more than 50 different opportunities for employer involvement in STW. State and local communities are actively working to engage employers in becoming partners and active participants within their STW systems.

Status of Employer Investments. To date, the two Departments through the National School-to-Work Office have made a number of investments to support employer knowledge and participation in aspects of emerging STW systems. A major investment included support for the establishment and development of the National Employer Leadership Council (NELC), the purpose of which has been to enlist the leadership of highly visible CEOs of major companies in order to promote STW at the highest levels of corporate business. Another significant investment included one through an existing ETA grant to the National Alliance of business (NAB). The purpose of this project was to promote participation in STW through ETA's workforce development infrastructure featuring a partnership comprised of NAB, NELC, the Association of Private Industry Councils, and the National Employer Council. The National STW Office also invested in specific outreach activities and publications targeted to business entities and employers. Recently, the National STW Office released a solicitation in which up to 5 awards will be made to national industry and trade associations. The successful applicants will be expected, through their membership infrastructures, to capture for STW participation a critical mass of employers in growth industries and/or those with high potential for providing jobs with career pathways for new job entrants.

Additional investments have been made in research and evaluation to collect data on employer participation. These studies support the notion that the investments made to date are having a modest impact, but there is still a long way to go before employer participation can be considered at a scale sufficient to sustain STW systems. One recent study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research revealed that employers are playing an active role in local partnerships, participating widely in governing in and more than a quarter of the cases are actually chairing these bodies. They are offering varied forms of work-base learning opportunities, hosting teacher internships and contributing to curriculum development. However, according to the Mathematica report, partnerships still face significant challenges as they try to recruit the numbers of employers needed. The report concludes that "Employer recruiting will have to expand participation manyfold beyond the 1996 levels if the goals states are setting for workplace activity are to be realized."

Other research shows, however, that employers are ready and eager to participate in STW and that their numbers are expanding. The National Employer Leadership Survey conducted by the Center on Educational Quality of the Workforce illustrated a clear desire by employers to participate in and provide appropriate leadership to STW. Significantly, another study conducted through the NELC shows that there is economic incentive to do so. Preliminary data from its Return on Investment Study shows a quantitative value of STW participation ranging from $.44 to over $5 for every dollar invested. In addition, companies are likely to experience non-monetary returns on investment such as increased employee morale when they participate in STW.

There are other encouraging indications that employer participation is beginning to accelerate. Part II of the National Employer Survey released in November 1997 revealed that over one in four employers with 20 or more employees are involved in STW. However, the survey also shows that mentoring and job shadowing are the predominant modes of participation and that larger companies participate in greater numbers that small companies. Thus, to further take STW to scale and build employer capacity there need to be efforts to 1.) continue to broaden the number of employers; 2.) expand the nature of employer participation to include more in-depth participation through such activities as internships; and 3.) increase the number of small and medium sized businesses participating in STW. Although investments to date have built awareness of STW in the business community and an encouraging level of employer involvement, we now need to build greater depth and capacity in employer participation. STW initiatives need to engage companies of all sizes and all industries in order to build capacity beyond basic awareness and peripheral participation.

Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). GPRA requires that each government entity develop goals and objectives against which performance can be measured. Building strong employer participation in STW is chief among the objectives the Departments have established for the National School-to-Work Office. The Departments have identified two indicators of achievement for this objective: 1. by fall 2000, 600,000 employers will engage in at least one recognized STW activity; and 2. by fall 2000, 40% of all employers participating in STW systems will offer work-based learning opportunities.

As of December 1995, the most recent data available, 150,000 employers nationally were engaged in at least one STW activity. When the next Progress Measures report is issued this number is likely to be significantly higher. However, it is apparent that strategic approaches for recruitment of employers remains an urgent necessity. There is a need to develop prototype products and to work with key organizations to raise critical awareness of STW among employers. In addition, the Departments recognize the importance of supporting the development, testing, dissemination and implementation of various approaches to employer participation in order to meet the GPRA objectives. This solicitation represents a major component of the Departments' strategy to achieve its objective of building employer participation in STW.

Required Areas of Effort. Reaching a critical mass of employers participating in STW will require concentrated and strategic effort. This effort will require: that both private and public sector employers increase their knowledge of the breadth of STW participation options; that employer participation is easily facilitated; that other stakeholders are ready and knowledgeable enough to partner with employers; that employers are able to influence other institutions for their own benefit; that employers help infuse STW into other workforce development and community systems; that there is research - both hard evidence and anecdotal examples - to demonstrate the conditions under which there is a return on investment when they participate; and that investments in employer participation grow and leverage other resources. Based on lessons learned from previous investments in awareness building and research, the Departments believe it necessary to approach building the levels of employer participation by requiring the successful applicant for this solicitation to demonstrate concerted effort in the following four areas of concentrated activity.

1. Building employer knowledge base about STW and cultivating corporate leadership. This area required effort includes but is not limited to those activities that 1) address perceived barriers to employer participation in STW; 2) provide more information to employers; 3) organize employer events (such as employer conferences)regarding STW; 4) highlight effective and best practices; 5) publicly recognize commendable examples of employer participation in STW; 6) disseminate research findings pertinent to employer participation in STW; and 7) generally provide outreach to the employer community and promote participation in STW. The Departments are particularly interested in activities that instruct and sustain employers in leading efforts to promote and implement STW systems' leadership at the national, state, and local levels.

The Departments have determined that these activities proceed most effectively when they are guided by business leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to STW and their willingness to promote the program within the larger business community. As discussed above, several employer groups, such as the NELC, NAB, NAPIC, and NEC, have substantially increased the visibility of STW in the business community. Accordingly, the Departments expect the successful applicant to: 1) operate an active national advisory council of business leaders, including representatives from employer groups such as those listed above; 2) describe, with specificity, the roles and activities of the advisory council; and 3) identify the business leaders who have committed themselves to serve on the council.

2. Organizing and participating in strategic alliances with national business groups and organizations. This area of required effort involves activities designed to maximize the coordination of STW-related initiatives. The Departments recognize that national organizations which represent and serve a wide variety of businesses and business interests have been demonstrating increasing interest in STW. Some of these groups have established STW initiatives of varying scope and intensity. As a result, there are several simultaneous national efforts to inform about STW and to engage them in STW initiatives. The Departments believe that where possible, coordinated alliances between these groups would strengthen the overall impact of these efforts. Accordingly, the Departments are interested in activities that would strategically convene divergent business efforts to increase knowledge of, and participation in STW, that includes serving when necessary as the collective voice of business in the ongoing dialogue around STW issues.

3. Providing technical assistance to State STW systems in cultivating employer participation. States need various degrees of assistance in recruiting employers to actively participate in STW. Also, previous experience indicates that employer involvement becomes tenuous when employers are in a ready posture to participate, but STW systems are not fully ready to engage employers. The Departments are therefore interested in direct technical assistance to selected State STW systems that will help these systems expand and intensify employer participation. Examples of such technical assistance include helping states develop strategic plans for developing employer leadership, assisting states develop products and tools for working with employers as well as for organizations working with employers, and dissemination of products and materials for engaging employer leadership in State systems.

4. Providing support and coordination to national industry specific STW initiatives. The Departments are in the process of awarding up to 5 new awards (Reference # : SGA/DAA 98-003) to provide support to industry groups and trade associations to undertake outreach, technical assistance, and other activities to engage and build capacity of employers in their industry to participate in STW systems. The Departments believe that, through industry-specific initiatives, industry groups representing high growth industries and/or those that have a high potential for providing jobs with career pathways for new job entrants can build a strong base of employer participation in STW. Accordingly, it is expected that the successful applicant for this solicitation will convene the successful offerors from SGA/DAA 98-003 on a quarterly basis and coordinate their efforts to share activities and results across industries. This requirement is to insure that the National STW Office's investments in employer engagement are closely allied and are strategically consistent.

IV. Eligible Applicants: National business organizations or associations, or a national consortium of business organizations experienced in business partnership management and School-to-Work. Potential applicants, however, should note the Departments' priority in seeking an organization with a thorough knowledge of School-to-Work, familiarity with The Employer Participation Model, demonstrated competence in promoting and supporting education/business partnerships, and a strong knowledge base concerning the needs, circumstances and conditions of businesses that participate in School-to-Work.

In preparing the proposal, please use the following headings and respond to the information in each of the following categories.

1. Project Description. Summarize the scope of the project, outline how its activities will relate to the four broad areas of activity described in the previous section, provide succinct and measurable project objectives, and show how the objectives will help the Departments meet the STW goals and objectives established pursuant to GPRA.

2. Operational Plan. Provide a detailed work plan that includes a description of the proposed activities matched to the objectives presented in the Project Description, with accompanying time lines, and the targeted audiences for each of these activities. Provide an organizational structure and clear management plan detailing the staff and organizational resources to be devoted to the project. The offeror should demonstrate how the proposed work will contribute to bringing STW to scale and how it will lead to sustainability. Indicators demonstrating whether the work plan is likely to help bring STW to scale include:

  • showing the impact usefulness at the national, state, and local levels and demonstrating a strong "outreach" effort to enhance this impact;

  • articulating how the planned activities will build linkages between business and other STW stakeholders;

  • connecting to, and collaborating with, other organizations and initiatives designed to promote employer participation in STW;

  • identifying, developing, and disseminating materials for professional development in the area of effective employer engagement in STW; and

  • building linkages with industry groups and organizations which, through their membership, are in a position to promote broader employer participation in STW, in particular, those industry/trade consortiums funded by the National School-to-Work Office.

Indicators demonstrating whether the plan demonstrates sustainability after the federal investment has ended include:

  • identifying both federal and non-federal funding sources a that amplify the federal investment and outlast it;

  • describing in business terms how the plan addresses business problems or needs;

  • inviting other entities with similar experiences and interests to identify related products, resources, findings and interests in order to take advantage of activities in the larger arena of STW implementation; and

  • building upon existing, or creating new coalitions that maximize business involvement and participation in STW.

3. Connecting to related initiatives and entities. The offeror should demonstrate how its proposed plan of activities will build upon existing or create new coalitions that maximize business involvement and participation in STW; and /or connect with other entities with similar experiences and interests to identify related products, resources, funding and interests in order to take advantage of activities in the larger arena of STW implementation, and /or involve the public and private sectors in ways that capitalize on, and connect to, existing infrastructures and overall workforce development systems.

4. Results. The offeror should provide specific and quantifiable outcomes that are anticipated from the proposed plan of activities and that are measured with STW GPRA performance indicators. The proposed outcomes should be sufficiently rigorous to allow the Departments to meet its performance objectives and indicators established pursuant to GPRA. In identifying outcomes, the offeror should also explain how it will collect data, document results and use these results to inform its ongoing workplan.

5. Capability. The offeror should demonstrate the capability of the organization and the key staff assigned to undertake the work plan, including examples of prior related efforts that demonstrate success in providing outreach and capacity building efforts to employers and employer organizations.

V. Funding Availability and Period of Performance. The Departments expect to make one award under this competition. The award will be for $750,000. The period of performance will be for 12 months from the date the grant is awarded. The Departments may, at their option, provide additional funds for another 24 months, depending on fund availability and performance of the awardee.

VI. Application Submittal. Applicants must submit four (4) copies of their proposal, with original signatures. The applications shall be divided into two distinct parts: Part I - which contains Standard Form (SF) 424, "Application for Federal Assistance," (Appendix A) and "Budget Information Sheet," (Appendix B) . All copies of the SF 424 MUST have original signatures of the designated fiscal agent. Applicants shall indicate on the SF-424 the organization's IRS status, if applicable. According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, Section 18, an organization described in Section 501(C) 4 of the Interal Revenue Code of 1986 which engages in lobbying activities shall not be eligible for the receipt of federal funds constituting an award, grant, or loan. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance number is 17.249. In addition, the budget shall include--on a separate page (s)-- a detailed cost break-out of each line item on the Budget Information Sheet. Part II shall contain the program narrative that demonstrates the applicant's plan and capabilities in accordance with the evaluation criteria contained in this notice. Applicants must describe their plan in light of each of the Evaluation Criteria. No cost data or reference to price shall be included in this part of the application. Applicants MUST limit the program narative section to no more than 30 double-spaced pages,

on one side only. This includes any attachments. Applications that fail to meet the page limitation requirement will not be considered.

VII. Late Applications. Any application received after the exact date and time specified for receipt at the office designated in this notice will not be considered, unless it is received before awards are made and it - (a) Was sent by registed or certified mail not later than the fifth calendar day before the date specified for receipt of applications (e.g., and application submitted in response to a solicitation requiring receipt of applications by the 20th of the month must have been mailed/post marked by the 15th of that month); or (b) Was sent by the U.S. Postal Service Express Mail Next Day Service to addresses not later than 5:00 P.M. at the place of mailing two working days prior to the date specified for receipt of applications. The term "working days" excludes weekends and federal holidays. The term "post marked"means a printed, stamped or otherwised placed impression (exclusive of a postage meter machine impression) that is readily identifiable, without further action, as having been supplied or affixed on the date of mailing by an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.

VIII. Hand Delivered Propsals. It is preferred that applications be mailed at least five days prior to the closing date. To be considered for funding, Hand-delivered applications must be received by 4:00 P.M., (Eastern Time), on the closing date. TELEGRAPHED AND/FAXED APPLICATIONS WILL NOT BE HONORED. Failure to adhere to the above instructions will be a basis for a determination of nonresponsiveness. Overnight express mail from carriers other than the U.S. Postal Service will be considered hand-delivered applications and MUST BE RECEIVED by the above specified date and time.

IX. Review Process. A careful evaluation of applications will be made by a technical review panel who will evaluate the applications against the criteria listed below. The panel results are advisory in nature and not binding on the Grant Officer. The government may elect to award the grants with or without discussions with the offeror. In situations without discussions, an award will be based on the offeror's signature on the SF-424, which constitutes a binding offer. Awards will be those in the best interest of the Government.

X. EVALUATION CRITERIA

1. The extent to which the offeror outlines a clear and detailed plan of operation. (40 points)

  • Is the plan specific as to the activities proposed and how these activities will result in broad employer participation?

  • Are the outcomes proposed specific and realistic?

  • Is the plan specific as to staff assignments and level of effort?

  • Do the activities directly relate to the four areas of required effort?

  • Does the application demonstrate how the proposed work will contribute to expanding the scope and breadth of employer participation in STW?

  • How will the proposed activities lead to sustainability of the federal investment to engage employers in STW systems?

  • How will the proposed outcomes help the Departments to meet its performance objectives and indicators established pursuant to the GPRA?

2. The extent to which the applicant demonstrates the capability and capacity to meet the requirements of this solicitation. (30 points)

  • Does the organization have clear links to the employer and business communities?

  • Does the applicant identify specific corporate entities and leaders (e.g., individuals associated with particular business groups) who have committed to actively participate on a national advisory council; and does the organization clearly delineate the roles and activities of this advisory body?

  • Has the applicant demonstrated the ability to recruit business leaders, who represent a mix of industry types, sizes and geographic locations, for its proposed STW activities?

  • Are the personnel assigned to the effort well qualified to carry out the activities represented in the operational plan?

  • Are the organization and assigned staff well positioned to provide the range of technical assistance to employers, employer partners and STW systems as required?

  • Does the organization demonstrate the capacity to perform the range of required activities on a national scale?

3. The extent to which applicant demonstrates the willingness and ability to engage and convene other related national initiatives that seek to inform and develop employer participation in STW. (20 points)

  • Does the applicant propose specific activities that are likely to result in strategic alliances with other business groups?

  • Does that applicant show relevant past experience in collaborating with national business groups?

  • Does this experience span a range of industry sizes and types?

4. The overall utility of the applicant's plan to evaluate its activities and use its results to inform its ongoing plan. (10 points)

  • Is the plan for evaluation clearly tied to clear objectives and specific outcomes?

  • Is there a clear mechanism for adjusting the workplan based on results?

  • Are there clear descriptions of the type of data to be collected and a clear data collection plan?

The grants will be awarded based on applicant response to the above mentioned criteria and that which is otherwise most advantageous to the Departments.

XI. Reporting requirements. The Departments are interested in insuring that the grantee work closely with the industry and trade associations that are successful applicants for the previously referenced competition (Reference # DGA/DDA 98-003). The Departments expect the successful offeror will convene these associations' STW project staff on a quarterly basis. The gramtee will also be asked to submit periodic reports in a format to be determined and on a semi-annual basis.

Signed at Washington, D.C., this 11th day of May 1998.

Janice E. Perry

Grant Officer

Appendices

Appendix A: Application for Federal Assistance, SF Form 424

Appendix B: Budget Information Form