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School-to-Work Opportunities Act: Industry Association/Business Consortium Solicitation

Billing Code 4510-30

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Employment and Training Administration

AGENCIES: Employment and Training Administration, Department of Labor

ACTION: Notice of availability of funds and solicitation for grant applications (SGA) providing work-based learning opportunities in State and local School-to-Work (STW) systems through two distinct efforts undertaken by either: 1) national industry/trade groups or associations/coalitions with national memberships or participation; or 2) local/regional business-led consortia.

SUMMARY: THIS NOTICE CONTAINS ALL OF THE NECESSARY INFORMATION AND FORMS NEEDED TO APPLY FOR GRANT FUNDING. The Departments of Labor and Education jointly invite proposals for up to 10 new awards in FY 1998, as authorized under Section 403 of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (the Act). These awards will provide support to industry/trade groups or associations/coalitions with national memberships or participation and to local/regional business-led consortia to undertake outreach, technical assistance, and other activities to increase the number and capacity of employers to participate in STW systems. The Departments believe that a targeted approach to employer involvement in STW through industry and trade groups or associations/coalitions with national memberships/participation and through local/regional business-led consortia has the potential to help develop a critical mass of business partners. As a result of the products developed and activities carried out, awardees will be asked to provide clear, quantifiable evidence that they are significantly increasing the numbers of employers participating in STW and increasing the number of work-based learning opportunities for students who are participating in STW activities. The Departments made four awards to distinct industry groups (retail, manufacturing, information technology and utilities) in FY 1997.

DATES: Applications will be accepted commencing February 18, 1999. The closing date for receipt of applications is April 5, 1999, at 4 P. M., (Eastern Time ) at the address below.

ADDRESSES: Applications shall be mailed to the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Division of Federal Assistance, Attention: Patricia A. Glover, Reference: SGA/DFA 99-005, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room S-4203, Washington, D.C. 20210.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Questions should be faxed to Patricia A. Glover, Grants Management Specialist, Division of Federal Assistance, Fax (202) 219-8739. This is not a toll-free number. All inquiries should include the SGA number (DFA 99-005) and a contact name, fax and phone number. This solicitation will also be published on the Internet on the Employment and Training Administration's Homepage at http://www.doleta.gov. Award notifications will also be published on this Homepage.

INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION/ BUSINESS CONSORTIUM SOLICITATION

I. Purpose. To invite proposals for increasing the number and capacity of employers providing work-based learning opportunities in State and local School-to-Work (STW) systems through two distinct efforts undertaken by either: 1) national industry/trade groups or associations/coalitions with national memberships or participation; or 2) local/regional business-led consortia.

II. Background. The School-to-Work Opportunities Act was signed into law by President Clinton on May 4, 1994. Jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education, this Act is a new approach to education and workforce development 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 to increase the likelihood that youth will successfully transition from school into careers or post-secondary institutions. 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. Currently all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are receiving STW implementation funds. The Act also provides funds for national activities to support STW system-building efforts nationwide. These funds are used for technical assistance and capacity building, outreach and 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 our economy, technology and global competition are driving forces behind efforts to improve the academic performance and career preparedness of today's youth. One purpose, the National School-to-Work Opportunities Act was 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 experience." Work-based learning is one of the three key components within a STW system (school-based learning and connecting activities are the other two). Thus, employer participation is critical for the implementation and sustainability of STW systems.

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

Status of Employer Investments. The National School-to-Work Office (NSTWO) has made a number of investments to support employer knowledge and participation in emerging STW systems. In FY 1996, the NSTWO funded the Building Linkages initiative to promote connections between State Academic standards and industry-recognized skill standards. The goal was to ensure that student learners meet both the requirements of post-secondary education and employer expectations. As a result, curricular models within the context of broad career areas were created. Another major investment included support for the establishment and development of the National Employer Leadership Council, the mission of which is to enlist the leadership of prominent CEO's of major companies to promote STW at the highest levels of corporate business.

The NSTWO, in addition to the industry-specific awards in FY 1997, also invested in outreach activities, specific publications targeted to business entities and employers and research and evaluation in an effort to collect data on employer participation. Such data have been collected from three sources: 1) the National Employer Survey conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Center on Educational Quality of the Workforce; 2) the School-to-Work Progress Measures System; and 3) The Bureau of Labor Statistics' National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Data Collection.

There is preliminary information demonstrating that the investments made to date on employer participation are having an important impact, but there is a long way to go before employer participation can be considered at scale and sufficiently sustainable. The most recent evaluation of STW systems conducted by Mathematica Policy Research revealed that employers are playing an active role in local partnerships, participating widely in governing boards, offering varied forms of work-based learning opportunities, hosting teacher internships and contributing to curriculum development. However, according to several studies, there needs to be more in-depth work-based experiences provided by employers and an increase in the number of employers participating in STW to effectively augment and link to classroom instruction.

Other research, such as the National Employer Leadership Survey conducted by the Center on Educational Quality of the Workforce, suggests that employers, under the right circumstances, are more than ready and eager to participate in STW programs. However, as key stakeholders, contributors to and major beneficiaries of STW, they will require clearer linkages and more focused attention than has been occurring. It is also clear that both educators and employers need to be better connected with one another.

These reports and past experience with national employer investments suggest that stronger and more strategic employer investments will be necessary if the entire STW system can really be brought to scale and securely sustained.

Employer Investment Categories. Reaching a critical mass of employer participation and sustaining the effort will require that both private and public sector employers are equipped with the following; knowledge - enough to want to participate; research - both hard evidence and anecdotal examples, to demonstrate the conditions under which there is return on investment when they participate; access - that employer participation is easily facilitated; information - that other stakeholders are ready and knowledgeable enough to partner with employers. We also know that employers are able to influence other institutions for mutual benefit, help to infuse STW into other systems, and that investments in employer participation grow and leverage other resources. Based on lessons learned from previous investments and results of research and evaluative data-gathering, in order to bring STW to scale, the following broad areas of activities are necessary:

1. Products and activities that enable employer participation and build a knowledge base of employers

This includes, but is not limited to, those activities that address barriers to participation, provide more information to employers, organize employer events, highlight effective and best practices, and generally provide outreach to the employer community.

2. Educating other stakeholders about business need and business culture

Educators especially need a better grounding on how to work effectively in partnership with employers. Previous experience tells us that employer involvement becomes tenuous when employers are in a ready posture to participate but schools and others are not ready to engage them.

3. Employers influencing institutions

There are multiple and complex institutional entities that necessarily interact with business in STW. Policies and practices of these institutions are often out of line with business and industry need and are often inadvertently misaligned with economic trends that affect their own effectiveness. Thus, there is a need for business influence not only on education but also other workforce development initiatives.

4. Advocating for intermediaries

The process of connecting schools with employers and students with employers can be time consuming and challenging given the institutional and cultural barriers described above. One successful approach has been the use of intermediary organizations that connect the two. Demonstrating and researching the features of intermediary relationships that are particularly effective in linking schools and employers will be especially valuable to bringing STW to scale. As one report states: "Employers want a reliable intermediary much more than they want incentives."

5. Research

Anecdotal stories of success and effectiveness are useful, but lack wide scale replicability. Research is needed that empirically demonstrates the benefit of employer participation in STW and those variable likely to contribute to effective employer involvement and employer return on investment.

6. Building employer capacity

There is a need to address industry-specific needs as well as to tie STW participation into each industry's evolving skill standards. In addition, the needs of employers operating in specific labor market areas must be addressed. There is a host of other ways in which to flexibly address employer needs as agents of STW implementation.

7. Connectivity

There is a need to align employer participation in complementary, supportive and/or related initiatives, for example: the Building Linkages initiative works to develop curriculum to match the technical knowledge and skills required for career entry, progression and further education in a career area.

The Departments believe that the intensity and mix of activities that will lead to scale and sustainability of employer participation can be approached through two categories of grants as described below. The Departments also believe that it is beneficial for grantees to share lessons learned, discuss common issues and share related products. The Departments expect that successful applicants in both of the application categories will coordinate activities and share results with new and previous grantees under this competition.

IV. Application Process: The Departments are reserving funds appropriated for FY 1998 under the Act for two award categories. Eligible applicants may only apply under one category. Failure to select one of the two categories may lead to disqualification. The first award category is for national industry/trade associations or national coalitions with national memberships or participation. The second category is targeted to local/regional business-led consortia. Both are expected to increase the number and capacity of employers participating in State and local STW systems and to increase the number of work-based learning opportunities for students participating in STW activities.

Application Category One: National trade/industry groups or associations/coalitions with national memberships/participation. Priority will be given to those applicants that can reach employers through a national membership network and that represent high-growth industries not already represented by grants awarded in FY 1997. For the first category, any industry/trade association or coalition with national membership or participation that represents a national network of industry members may submit an application for a grant award. Potential applicants, however, should note the Departments priority is to support industry groups that can demonstrate significant evidence of past or current STW participation to build upon, are in growth industries, or have high potential for providing jobs that allow for career pathways for new job entrants. High-priority industries include business/finance; transportation; health services; and communications.

Application Category Two: Regional Business-Led Consortia that encompass regional labor markets. Priority will be given to those applicants who demonstrate innovative participation of a variety of employers in STW and who demonstrate active regional business leadership. For the second category, any local/regional business-led consortia seeking to implement or expand partnerships that link with STW initiatives and that create new and effective approaches to increasing the number of employers participating in STW and increasing work-based learning opportunities for youth may apply. These partnerships must meet a specific business need of a local/regional labor market area as well as support educational improvement efforts. Non-profit organizations may apply in partnership with specific business entities, but must demonstrate a clear business leadership to the initiative.

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

1. Industry and Project. Identify the industry, sponsoring association (or nonprofit organization) and title of the proposal. Provide information on the number, percentage of industry and mix (large and small)of employers represented by this proposal.

2. Project Proposal. Provide a detailed work plan that includes a description of the proposed activities, with accompanying dated timelines, and the target audiences for these activities. The offeror should demonstrate how the proposed work plan 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 an "outreach" strategy to enhance this impact;
  • articulating how the planned activities will build linkages between the business and education communities in measurable ways, including the use of intermediary organizations;
  • connecting related curriculum development efforts funded by the National School-to-Work Office/Office of Vocational and Adult Education that link to industry-recognized skill standards, i.e. Building Linkages;
  • identifying opportunities/activities/materials for teacher professional development in the area of employer engagement;
  • identifying innovative approaches to work-based learning that can accommodate any student; and
  • identifying numerical goals around the numbers of employers who will begin to be engaged in STW and the numbers of work-based learning positions for students.

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

  • providing a realistic plan for institutionalizing the endeavor beyond a specific project level;
  • extracting and documenting the common lessons applicable to other interested entities within a targeted industry, occupation or sector;
  • identifying both federal and non-federal funding sources that amplify the federal STW investment and outlast it;
  • describing in business terms how it is a solution to a business problem or address a business need; and
  • identifying clear roles for major stakeholder groups such as industry, educators, parents, students and employee representatives or unions when applicable.

3. Connecting to related initiatives and entities. The offeror should demonstrate how its proposed plan of activities will build upon existing coalitions 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; and/or connect to existing industry skill standards development efforts, including the work of the emerging Voluntary Partnerships funded by the National Skill Standards Board, Building Linkages consortia where applicable and relevant Federal initiatives (e.g., the Department of Transportation's Garrett Morgan effort).

4. Results. The offeror should provide specific and quantifiable outcomes that are anticipated from the proposed plan of activities. In identifying outcomes, the offeror should also explain how it will collect data, document results and use these results in ongoing working with members.

5. Capability. The offeror should demonstrate the capability of the organization and the key staff assigned to undertake the work plan and include examples of prior related efforts that demonstrate success in providing outreach and capacity building of member firms.

V. 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 legal entity applying for grant funding. 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 Internal 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. Applicants MUST limit the program narrative 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.

VI. 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 registered or certified mail not later than the fifth calendar day before the date specified for receipt of applications (e. g. , an 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 otherwise 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.

VII. Hand Delivered Proposals. 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 at the specified address. 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.

VIII. Funding Availability and Period of Performance. The Departments expect to make up to 10 awards with a maximum total investment for these projects of $4.5 million. The period of performance will be for 24 months from the date the grant is awarded. The Departments may, at their option, provide additional funds for another 12 months at a lower level of funding, depending upon fund availability and performance of the offeror.

Estimated Range of Awards. The Departments expect the total award amounts for application category one: industry focus; to not exceed one million dollars for the total 24- month period. The Departments further expect the total award amount for application category two: business-led consortia; to range from a minimum award of $200,000 to a maximum award of $500,000, for the total 24-month period. These estimates are provided to assist applicants in developing their plans.

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 grant 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. Applicants may apply for only one of the two categories of grants; that is, either specific national industry initiatives or local/regional business-led consortia.

The criteria used to rate all proposals submitted in Category One, National Industry Focus, are:

2. The extent to which the organization represents a critical mass of employers within a growth industry. (20 points)

  • Is this the lead organization for the industry?
  • Is this a growth industry?
  • Is this an industry in which there is already significant participation in work place experiences for teachers and/or students?
  • Does the industry offer jobs that provide pathways to high wage careers?
  • Is the industry and/or lead organization currently involved in the development and use of skill standards within education and training systems?

2. The extent to which the proposed plan will leverage the infrastructure of a national industry or trade association in order to reach a critical mass of employers who will participate in and benefit from STW. (35 points)

  • Is the plan specific as to the activities proposed and how these activities will result in broad employer participation?
  • Does the proposal clearly demonstrate how the activities proposed will bring employer participation in STW systems to scale?
  • Does the plan clearly demonstrate how the organization plans to build upon existing venues for reaching member firms?
  • Does the plan have clear numerical goals for new employers and work-based learning positions for students?
  • Are the outcomes proposed specific, realistic and measurable?

3. The extent to which the proposal addresses the system-building elements of STW. (35 points)

  • Is it clear how other critical stakeholders will be involved at the State and local level?
  • Does the proposal address how the activities will connect with State and local STW system initiatives?
  • Does the proposal include how this project will relate to other industry associations and business coalitions?
  • Does the proposal address the activities that connect employers with schools at the local level and how these activities will be accomplished?
  • Does the proposal address how the activities will connect and leverage other national initiatives that promote industry involvement in the development and use of skill standards, e.g. Building Linkages?
  • Does the proposal address how employees or their representatives, including unions, will be involved in the development and implementation of STW in the affected industry?

4. The extent to which the proposed plan is likely to produce sustainable employer engagement in STW after the federal investment has ended. (10 points)

  • Is there evidence of non-grant funding that amplifies the federal investment and that is likely to contribute to sustaining the project's impact?
  • Is the proposal specific as to the business needs and problems that the proposed activities are designed to address?

The criteria used to rate all proposals in Category Two, Business-Led Consortia, are:

1. The extent to which the applicant and its partners represent a business-led initiative that addresses a particular local/regional labor market need. (20 points)

  • Is there clear evidence that the consortium is business led?
  • Does the project reflect significant participation in work-based experiences for teachers and/or students?
  • Do the consortia members offer jobs that provide pathways to high-wage careers?
  • Does the application show the connection between its activities and the labor market needs of the area?

2. The extent to which the proposed plan will reach a critical mass of employers who will participate in and benefit from STW. (35 points)

  • Is the plan specific as to the activities proposed, how these activities will result in broad employer participation, and what personnel will be assigned to key tasks?
  • Does the proposal clearly demonstrate how the activities proposed will bring employer participation in local STW systems to scale?
  • Does the plan clearly demonstrate how the consortium plans to build upon existing partnerships for reaching employers?
  • Does the plan have clear numerical goals for increasing the number of employers who will begin to be engaged in STW and for increasing the number of work-based learning positions for students?
  • Are the outcomes proposed specific, realistic and measurable?

3. The extent to which the proposal addresses the system-building elements of STW. (35 points)

  • Is it clear how other critical stakeholders will be involved?
  • Does the proposal explain the specific mechanisms for engaging these stakeholders?
  • Does the proposal address how the activities will connect with local STW initiatives?
  • Does the proposal address the activities that connect employers with schools at the local level and how these activities will be accomplished?
  • Does the proposal address how employees or their representatives, including unions, will be involved in the development and implementation of STW in the affected consortium?

4. The extent to which the proposed plan is likely to produce sustainable employer engagement in STW after the federal investment has ended. (10 points)

  • Is there evidence of non-grant funding that amplifies the federal investment and that is likely to contribute to sustaining the project's impact?
  • Is the proposal specific as to the business needs and problems that the proposed activities are designed to address?
  • Does the application clearly show how the project activities can be replicated in other locales and how the grantee will disseminate its findings from the project?

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

X. Reporting Requirements. The Departments are interested in insuring that grantees share lessons learned and products developed. To facilitate exchange of information, the Departments expect to occasionally convene grantees for meetings of approximately one-day duration. Grantees will also be asked to submit periodic progress reports in a format to be determined and on a semi-annual basis.

Signed in Washington D.C., this 12th day of February, 1999.

Laura A. Cesario, Grant Officer

Appendix A: (SF) 424-Application Form

Appendix B: Budget Information Form