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SGA/DFA 99-021

Billing Code 4510-30

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Employment and Training Administration

Job Training and Partnership Act (JTPA), Title IV - Pilot and Demonstration Program

AGENCY: Employment and Training Administration, Labor

ACTION: Notice, Solicitation of Grant Applications for proposals to conduct regional consortium building activities.

SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Employment and Training Administration (ETA), using funds authorized under the JTPA Section 452 (c) for Pilot and Demonstration programs, is seeking to award regional consortium building grants as stated in the Conference Report (H. Rep. No. 105-825). The purpose of these awards is to support the creation and development of regional skills consortia for the purpose of assessing employer skill needs and of assessing the need for closing the gaps between the skills needed by industry and the skills currently held by regional workers.

ALL INFORMATION REQUIRED TO SUBMIT A GRANT APPLICATION IS CONTAINED IN THIS ANNOUNCEMENT.

It is anticipated that up to $9 million will be available for funding the projects covered by this solicitation. Approximately 15 grants will be awarded, and the estimated range of awards will be $500,000 to $1 million. At the Government's discretion, it is possible that awards would be made above this amount.

DATES: Applications for grant awards will be accepted commencing (Insert date of publication in the Federal Register). The closing date for receipt of applications is Monday, November 15, 1999, at 4:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) at the address below. Telefacsimile (FAX) applications will not be honored.

ADDRESSES: Applications must be mailed to : U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Division of Federal Assistance, Attention: Ms. Mamie D. Williams, Reference: SGA/DFA 99-021, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room S-4203, Washington, D.C. 20210.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions should be faxed to Mamie D. Williams, at (202) 219-8739 (this is not a toll free number). All inquiries should include the SGA number (SGA/DFA 99-021) and a contact name, telephone and fax number. This solicitation will also be published on the Internet, on the Employment and Training Administration's Home Page at http://www.doleta.gov. Award notifications will also be published on this Homepage.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

There is clear emphasis in the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) on regional planning and cooperation. It is envisioned that the successful applicants will play a significant contributory role toward establishing that capacity. One of the roles of the consortia will be to work in tandem with the emerging structures under WIA to develop a strong cohesive basis for workforce planning and development so that skills shortages in industry are identified and resolved, and training opportunities for workers are clearly available and publicized.

This program places strong emphasis on supporting existing or emerging regional consortia that put a primary focus on technical skills training - whether in a single industry or occupation or in a broader multi-industry or occupational setting that is more geographically based. While significant latitude will be given in terms of the composition of an eligible applicant's porposed regional consortium, inclusion of a local board(s) as authorized under Section 117 of WIA is highly desirable ans encouraged.

PART I - APPLICATION PROCESS

A. ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS

Awards under this Solicitation will be made to organizations and regional consortia of organizations that demonstrate the capacity to develop a comprehensive skill training plan for the area. The intent is to create partnerships that are broadly inclusive of groups in a geographic region or of entities focusing on a single industry or skilled occupation in an area.

There is no requirement that any of the partners in a consortium submitting an application be a private industry council (PIC) established under section 102 of the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) or a local workforce investment board that oversees training programs and projects operated in the local workforce investment systems created under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). It is not, however, the intent of this program to fund the establishment of a parallel workforce training system to the one that has already been established under JTPA and WIA. Therefore, applicants are strongly encouraged to consult with the workforce investment entities (PICs or WIBs) in their local area and seek to develop a partnership that works in consonance with those entities. The applicant may (but is not required to) submit a certification from a PIC or WIB attesting to the fact that such consultation is going on and a cooperative working relationship exists (or is being developed).

This Solicitation is extremely open-ended in terms of defining which organizations are eligible to apply for grant awards or to participate in the partnerships. Specifically, organizations eligible to apply may include but are not limited to organizations and regional consortia that comprise businesses, business and trade associations, labor unions, community colleges and other post-secondary institutions, and community- and faith-based organizations. In view of the fact that one of the foci of this initiative is closing regional skills gaps, it would be highly desirable to include businesses as participants which represent industries and occupations in which there are regional skills shortages. PICs or local boards may also apply for these grants both singly and in partnership with other PICs or other organizations. The governing criterion should be that the organization, group, consortium, or partnership is interested in addressing activities relating to regional job skills, gaps/needs and is interested, in the case of a single organization applicant, in creating a regional consortium for that purpose.

As noted above, these regional consortia will probably be multi-jurisdictional and may, in some cases, cross State boundaries, however, no minimum size is established, and the smallest grant could conceivably encompass a single local workforce investment area or service delivery area.

B. SUBMISSION OF PROPOSALS

Applicants must submit four (4) copies of their proposal, with original signatures. The proposal must consist of two (2) distinct parts, Parts I and II.

    Part I of the proposal shall contain the Standard Form (SF) 424, "Application for Federal Assistance"(Appendix A) and a "Budget Information Sheet" (Appendix B). All copies of the (SF) 424 MUST have original signatures of the legal entity applying for grant funding. The individual who signs the application should be the same individual who signs the certification discussed in the previous section. 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.

    Part II must contain a technical proposal that demonstrates the applicant's capabilities in accordance with the Statement of Work contained in this announcement. A grant application is limited to twenty (20) double-spaced, single-side, 8.5-inch x 11-inch pages with 1-inch margins. Attachments may not exceed fifteen (15) pages. Text type willl be 11 point or larger. Applications that do not meet these requirements will not be considered. Each application must include a Time Line outlining project activities and an Executive Summary not to exceed two pages. The Time Line and the Executive Summary do not count against the 20-page limit. No cost data or reference to price should be included in the technical proposal.

C. HAND - DELIVERED PROPOSALS

If proposals are hand-delivered, all copies must be received at the designated place by 4:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday, November 15, 1999. All overnight mail will be considered to be hand delivered and must be received at the designated place by 4:00 on the specified closing date. Telegraphed and/or faxed proposals will not be honored. Failure to adhere to the above instructions will be a basis for a determination of nonresponsiveness.

D. LATE PROPOSALS

A proposal received at the designated office after the exact time specified for receipt will not be considered unless it is received before award is made and it:

    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 offer submitted in response to a solicitation requiring receipt of applications by the 20th of the month must be mailed by the 15th);

    Was sent by U.S. Postal Service Express Mail Next Day Service, Post Office to addressee, not later than 5 p.m. at the place of mailing two working days prior to the date specified for proposals. The term "working days" excludes weekends and U.S. Federal holidays.

The only acceptable evidence that an application was sent in accordance with these requirements is 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 employees of the U.S. Postal Service.

E. FUNDING AVAILABILITY AND PERIOD OF PERFORMANCE.

The Department of Labor expects to make approximately 15 awards, with a total investment of approximately $9,000,000. The period of performance will be for 18 months from the date the grant is awarded. Because ETA views these grants as initial start up funding, it is anticipated that these awards will be one-time grants with no provision of an option year. The Department expects that the award amounts will range from $500,000 to $1 million. At the Government's discretion, it is possible that awards would be made above this amount.

F. DEFINITIONS

  • Region, for the purpose of this solicitation, means an area which exhibits a commonality of economic interest. Thus, a region may comprise a few labor market areas, one large labor market, one labor market area joined together with one or more adjacent rural districts, one or more special purpose districts, or one or more contiguous PICs or local boards. Clearly, if the region involves multiple economic or political jurisdictions, it is essential that they be contiguous to one another. A region may be either intrastate or interstate. Although the rating criteria will provide more detail, it is the applicant's responsibility to demonstrate the regional nature of the area which that application covers. Also, a region may be coterminous with a single PIC or local board.

  • Persons who may have fewer educational or occupational credentials means those individuals who have the educational or occupational credential level enumerated in Sec. 101 (33) of WIA (which, in another context, is employed to describe an "out of school youth"). Specifically, that definition refers to a school dropout or someone who has received a secondary school diploma or its equivalent but is basic skills deficient, (as defined in WIA, Sec 101 (4)), unemployed or underemployed.

PART II - STATEMENT OF WORK/REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

BACKGROUND

The Conference Agreement for the Fiscal Year 1999 appropriation for Title IV of JTPA states that it includes $9 million for the competitions for "creation of regional consortia for the purpose of assessing employer skill needs...H. Rep No. 105-825, 105th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Oct. 19, 1998)." This set-aside is also intended to assess the need for closing the gaps between business and the skills held by regional workers.

Traditionally, overall tight labor markets and even skill shortages are good for workers in that they can lead to rising wages, improved working conditions, and new opportunities for workers and new labor market entrants. What is a skill shortage? In the simplest terms possible, a shortage occurs in a market economy when the demand for workers in a particular occupation at an ascertainable skill level is greater than the supply of workers who are qualified, available, and willing to do the job. Problematic regional or sectoral industry skills shortages -- those that occur when there is imbalance between worker supply and demand for a persistent period of time -- can mean that particular goods and services are not provided and that the economy is operating less efficiently than it could. At the microeconomic level, i.e., for individual employers, the inability to find an adequate supply of workers - even after offering higher wages and better working conditions - can cause a loss of business and profits.

One theme in WIA refers to regional planning, cooperation, and cohesion. This regional consortium building initiative -- with its heavy emphasis on partnership-creation -- is an opportunity to learn how to build better quality, longer-term partnerships. Thus, one underlying purpose of this effort is to develop, test, and evaluate "models" for use by States and local boards.

PROJECT SUMMARY

A. PURPOSE

ETA intends to allocate up to $9 million for grants to existing or emerging regional consortia, or organizations seeking to form a consortia, for the primary purpose of forming a cohesive regional planning structure which has the capacity to assess employer skill needs, determine the gap between those industry needs and the skills possessed by regional workers, and develop a concrete action plan to train regional workers to fill the identified skill gaps.

The first priority in making these awards will be to support the process of consortium building. Thus, a successful applicant may be a single group which has developed a well-conceived and structured proposal that creates the necessary linkages with key organizations within a defined region to form the basis of a strong consortium.

The evidence of these linkages will be a signed consortium agreement that articulates the linkages being developed and describes in some detail what the roles of the various partners will be. Because a major purpose of the consortia will be to address industry skill needs, applicants are encouraged to enter into partnership arrangements with entities which possess a sound grasp of the job marketplace in the region. Typically, such organizations would include businesses (including small- and medium-size businesses) and business, trade or industry associations such as local Chambers of Commerce.

A significant aspect of the consortium-building effort is the resources that entities can bring to the table and contribute to the partnership. The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) does not require a match for this competition. However, a major aspect of this undertaking is to create regional consortia to address skill shortages that can sustain themselves once the consortium building grant has expired, and a substantial determining factor of that sustainability will be the amount of resources - both cash and in kind - that can be generated and leveraged by the participants in the consortium. Sustainability is an important consideration for the full implementation of the action plan that will be developed as part of this project but will be acted upon beyond the scope of this grant.

A second major purpose of the consortia is to assess the skills possessed by regional workers and develop strategies for making sure those skills are aligned with the requirements for filling the job vacancies that exist in regional industries. With this in mind, it is very important that consortia include a broad spectrum of organizations that have an understanding of regional skills needs and can provide the skills training to meet those needs. Specifically, the applicants are encouraged to reach out and involve groups such as labor unions, community colleges and other accredited post secondary educational institutions, and community-based organizations.

The result of the regional skills assessments described above should be an action plan which formulates an approach for resolving particular skills gaps that exist in the region. The action plan should carefully enumerate what the major skills shortage occupations are in the particular area and present a detailed series of steps designed to close those gaps. The action plan should be viewed as a key product of these grants.

Although the design and testing of curriculum is not the central concern of this start up consortium building initiative, it is entirely appropriate and desirable that regional consortia that have established the necessary partnership structure and have developed a partnership agreement that defines respective organizational roles within the structure begin work on curriculum development for skills shortage training while formulating their action plan. Having a membership that includes educational organizations such as community colleges and other accredited post secondary education and training institutions will assist the consortia in formulating and testing such skills training curriculum approaches.

Many of the job vacancies that emerge in the region may require substantial technical skills. Therefore, it is anticipated that significant technical skill training may be necessary to fill those employment opportunities. Such technical skill training may combine academic instruction with work place learning and instruction and training customized to the needs of specific firms. To the extent that applicants target for service persons with barriers to employment as described by section 203 (b) and (c) of JTPA (in particular, young adults aged 18-24) who may have fewer educational or occupational credentials, it is important that they spell out career paths which will help those individuals acquire high proficiency levels that may be required for some of the vacancies.

B. REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Once grant awards are made, the following reports and documents will be required:

    • Quarterly Financial Reports. The awardee must submit to the Grant Officer's Technical Representative (GOTR) within the 30 days following each quarter, two copies of a quarterly Financial Status Report, Standard Form (SF) 269, until such time as all funds have been expended or the period of availability has expired.

    • Progress Reports. The awardee must submit quarterly reports to the GOTR within the 30 days following each quarter. Two copies are to be submitted; the report will provide a detailed account of activities undertaken during the quarter.

    • The awardee shall work with the GOTR in submitting a copy of the signed consortium agreement. The agreement shall include a written statement of operating principles and procedures defining roles and decision-making processes for the consortium.

    • The awardee shall work with the GOTR in submitting a copy of the signed consortium action plan.

    • Final Report. A draft final report which summarizes project activities and results of the demonstration shall be submitted no later than 30 days prior to the expiration date of the grant.

PART III - REVIEW PROCESS AND RATING CRITERIA

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. The Grant Officer will make final award decisions based upon what is in the best interest of the Government.

RATING CRITERIA

A. Statement of Need (20 points)

The applicant must provide a clear statement describing the geographic region that the planned consortium, or organizations seeking to form a consortia, will encompass. What are the economic, demographic and governmental considerations that make this a region that should be considered for funding under this SGA? In order to be acceptable, the description should discuss these factors with precision, utilizing appropriate socioeconomic and statistical data. Applicants are encouraged to utilize all available data resources -- e.g., expressed hiring needs of employers in the region and The America's Labor Market Information System - in responding to this criterion.

Other pertinent questions that will provide greater depth of description of the region's characteristics and needs include: What is the general business environment? What industries and occupations are growing, and which ones are contracting? What are the characteristics of the major employers in the region?

B. Planning Strategy, Including Strength of Linkages/Partnerships and Sustainability (35 points)

The applicant should enumerate who the partners (or potential partners) are in this endeavor and how it is envisioned they will link together. The focus of this criterion is on the structural aspects of the consortium. What kinds of inter-organizational linkages have been (are going to be) created? What resource(s) is each partner willing to commit to the consortium? It is vitally important that all the partners be enumerated and thoroughly discussed to provide a clear picture of the potential the consortium will have for contributing to improved strategic planning within the region and within the workforce investment system and for substantively addressing skill shortage issues both on a regional basis and, to the extent that the region in question impacts upon broader national shortage issues, on a national basis. As noted earlier, applicants are not required to include a PIC or a WIB as a partner, however, they are encouraged to do so.

This procurement does not require that applicants provide a match. ETA feels strongly, however, that applicants and their partners should leverage additional resources - both Federal and non-Federal - to establish an entity which will be strong and have "staying power." It is hoped that the consortium will have leveraged sufficient resources to provide a viable base for continuing its activities once the funds from this grant award are exhausted.

C. Prospective Target Population (20 points)

The primary goals of this initiative are to build regional consortia and to develop viable action plans for bridging the gap between the skills needed by industry and those possessed by the regional workforce. Thus, there may be little, if any, actual provision of training services to individuals for the duration of this initial start up grant. Nevertheless, in describing the regional workforce, the applicant should develop a clear sense of who comprises the target population.

The description of the characteristics of those individuals the plan envisions serving should be clear and sufficiently detailed to determine the potential participants' needs for workforce development services. Documentation should be provided showing that a significant number of workers with defined skill needs are available for participation within the project's defined regional area.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to include underrepresented communities and populations in their proposal particularly those that may reside in any Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities (EZ/ECs) in the region. In particular, applicants are encouraged to plan for providing services to individuals with serious barriers to employment such as those described by section 203 (b) and (c) of JTPA (in particular, young adults aged 18-24) who may have fewer educational or occupational credentials.

D. Prior Experience (15 points)

Applicants should provide a detailed discussion of their specific experience in the activities contemplated by the Solicitation. What kinds of exposure has the applicant had to labor market analysis and/or economic planning including the use of economic and demographic data to identify skill shortage occupations? The application should also enumerate experience in developing strategies for addressing such shortages. Also, applicant should detail any background that it has in coalition or organization building work.

The applicant should include resumes of key staff who are proposed for this section. It may well be that individual staff members do not have much experience in consortium-building activities for workforce training. Therefore, it will be acceptable to show that the key staff has substantial background in economic planning for workforce and employment needs and related activities contemplated as part of the consortium building for this effort.

Also, a management plan should be included in the proposal which describes how a grant of this sort would be administered together with specific management experience possessed by grantee staff.

E. Cost Effectiveness (10 points)

Applicants must provide a detailed discussion of the expected cost effectiveness of their proposal. This discussion should be couched in terms of the reasonableness of the cost in relation to the activities planned.-- e.g., the consortium building activities. What expenses will be incurred in terms of bringing the concerned parties together in collaborative, cooperative partnership arrangements? How do these expenses compare to the capacity generated by the resulting consortium? What are the benefits of assessing community needs and factoring in workers' needs and attempting to calibrate those two in a comprehensive plan?

This section should also provide some discussion of what leveraged resources will be committed to the project, specifying the nature of those resources - e.g., Federal, non Federal, cash or in kind, capital equipment.

Signed this date, September 8, 1999 at Washington, D.C.

LAURA A. CESARIO

GRANT OFFICER

Appendices

Appendix A: (SF) 424 - Application For Federal Assistance

Appendix B: Budget Information Form