Feb. 28, 2022
Last week the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced $113 million in grant funding through the department’s Apprenticeship Building America (ABA) program. DOL will award between $1 million and $8 million each to 20-30 grantees working on one or more of the following goals: 1) modernizing state apprenticeship systems; 2) expanding Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) opportunities for youth; 3) ensuring equitable pathways through pre-apprenticeship leading to RAP enrollment and equity partnerships; and 4) investing in apprenticeship hubs to facilitate the expansion of RAPs in new and fast-growing industries and occupations.
A wide variety of entities are able to apply for ABA grants, though eligible leads vary across the four categories. For those submitting applications to expand registered apprenticeships for youth (Category 2), eligible lead applicants include city, municipal, and tribal governments, workforce systems, community-based organizations, industry groups, labor partnerships, and apprenticeship intermediaries. Similarly, there are many allowable uses of funds like reimbursing employers for activities related to on the job learning, covering the costs of related instruction, and providing supportive services for grantees. Supportive services in particular are important for making sure these opportunities are accessible to all. Under the grant, these services may include transportation, childcare, dependent care, housing, counseling, and payments to address other needs.
Each of the four grant categories is critically important to the growth of the American apprenticeship system, but it’s particularly exciting to see federal support for expanding registered apprenticeship opportunities for youth. This funding comes at a critical time for today’s young adults. The challenges they face transitioning from education to the workforce have only been exacerbated by the disruptions to schooling resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Apprenticeship, which combines education and employment, is uniquely suited to ease this transition.
There is no national definition of youth apprenticeship, but for the purposes of the grant a youth apprenticeship is defined as a Registered Apprenticeship Program that focuses on high school or out-of-school youth. As we’ve written about elsewhere, while those as young as 16 are eligible to participate in Registered Apprenticeships, too frequently these opportunities are not built with high school youth in mind. The ABA grant initiative tackles this issue head on and calls for grantees to integrate registered apprenticeships into existing education systems. Aligning youth apprenticeship with CTE, dual enrollment across high school and college, and WIOA youth programs can improve access and program effectiveness. Additionally, by aligning with existing systems, youth apprenticeship will be able to scale more quickly and unlock sustainable funding.
Another important area addressed by the grant is state-level data systems. High-quality data is essential for scaling apprenticeships because it enables state and local leaders to evaluate impact and make the case for apprenticeships to employers and learners. This is especially important for youth apprenticeships since these models are new in many places and require close collaboration across public K-12, higher education, and workforce systems. Yet many challenges exist in improving youth apprenticeship data quality. Applicants seeking awards to modernize state apprenticeship systems must explain how they will improve apprenticeship data quality, with a focus on better tracking apprentice outcomes. Specifically, applicants will have to outline how they’ll facilitate data sharing across state and federal IT systems, including RAPIDS, the federal registered apprenticeship data system.
On approximately March 15, 2022 a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page about the Apprenticeship Building America Grants FOA will be available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/grants/apply/find-opportunities. Please check this link frequently for future updates, as additional FAQs may be added. A pre-recorded Prospective Applicant Webinar will also be available at the same link and available for viewing any time after that date.
Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on what’s new in Education Policy!