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Worker Advancement Initiative Summary and Request for Applications

Project Summary:

The Worker Advancement Initiative will serve people whose previous employment has not come back post-pandemic, as well as those who were not attached to or were not successful in the labor market prior to the pandemic, by offering subsidized employment and skills training opportunities with local employers. The program builds on the success of current transitional jobs programs in the state by launching a new, statewide effort to provide subsidized work opportunities to around 2,000 individuals. DWD will administer the program through local workforce development boards (WDBs) in partnership with community-based organizations.

DWD is seeking grant applications from the local WDBs through this Request for Applications to partner with them and their local partnership networks to serve clients who would benefit from a continuum of services, including:

  • Paid work experience opportunities to develop and/or enhance job skills (wage subsidies);
  • Hard and soft skill training so participants can acquire occupational skills connected to 'in-demand' jobs along with critical work-based skills needed to succeed;
  • On-the-job training opportunities that will lead to economic self-sufficiency (wage subsidies); and
  • Supportive services to address related barriers to employment, which may include assistance for childcare, housing, transportation and worker stipends.

DWD anticipates that it will receive $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury through the Wisconsin Department of Administration for the Worker Advancement Initiative. This funding will allow DWD to award grants to the WDBs to provide subsidized employment and skills training opportunities to participants, including a focus on those who will be co-enrolled in Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs. The purpose is to effectively connect participant job seekers to employers and allow them to obtain enhanced case management and training services offered under WIOA. DWD anticipates the cost per participant served under this program will not exceed $10,000. DWD will retain a portion of this funding to perform required information technology changes for the success of the Worker Advancement Initiative, to conduct a third-party evaluation of the program, and to administer these grants.

DWD will review all applications it receives under this Request for Applications to ensure alignment with the goals of the Worker Advancement Initiative. DWD intends to award funds to WDBs throughout the state for the purpose of providing subsidized work opportunities. DWD will make its awards using the evaluation process described in Attachment A. DWD will also consider the total number of proposed participants and the proposed cost per participant when reviewing applications and budget proposals.

In addition to the information provided in this Summary and Request for Applications, DWD will provide labor market information (LMI) on the website for WDBs to use as a resource in tailoring their applications to the goals of this program. Each WDB should apply for the level of funding it believes it needs to carry out the Worker Advancement Initiative. If DWD receives requests for funding that exceed the total amount of funding available, DWD will determine funding allocations that maximize the use of the funds to achieve success of the program statewide. All resulting grant awards will have a two-year period of performance, with administrative funds limited to a maximum of 10% of the award.

Application Instructions:

Only Wisconsin WDBs are eligible for funding under this Request for Application. Each WDB must provide the information requested below to receive funding for the Worker Advancement Initiative. If a WDB does not provide all the requested information, DWD, at its discretion, may contact the WDB to gather the information it needs to evaluate its application for funding. The budget template can be found here.

This project will be supported, in whole, by a federal award awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development via the Wisconsin Department of Administration by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The WDBs will be required to sign a grant agreement with DWD to receive these funds. As a condition of the grant agreement, WDB must agree to comply with the requirements of section 602 of the ARPA, regulations adopted by Treasury pursuant to section 602(f) of ARPA, and guidance issued by Treasury regarding the foregoing. Each WDB will also be required to follow all other federal regulations applicable to the ARPA funds awarded to DWD, which will be listed in the grant agreement.

Applications for funding are due to DWD no later than 5:00 p.m. Central Time on Friday, August 13, 2021. Each WDB should email its completed application to: bwtgrants@dwd.wisconsin.gov

For any questions about this Request for Applications or the Worker Advancement Initiative, please email bwtgrants@dwd.wisconsin.gov

Application Questions:

Applicants must provide answers to each of the questions below. In each response, DWD will be looking for creative solutions to build on the success of current transitional jobs programs in the state. Additionally, each WDB should use the LMI it received from DWD to tailor its responses to strategically implement this program based on the state of its workforce area as impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. How will the WDB use the funds awarded under this program to provide more flexible eligibility criteria than what exists in its traditional employment and training programs to improve employment outcomes for underserved individuals in your area? For example, the WDB should identify specific individuals/groups who will be served, why they have not previously been served, how they will be identified and included in this program, and what the anticipated benefit of including them will be.
  2. In striving toward the Initiative's goal to expand eligibility, how will the WDB use the funds to conduct targeted outreach and perform community efforts aimed at enrolling participants having difficulty finding or maintaining strong employment ties, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Persons who have been involved in the judicial system(re-entry);
    • Non-custodial parents;
    • Long-term unemployed (i.e., persons detached from workforce);
    • Tribal members; and/or
    • Persons with disabilities?
  3. Describe the WDB's strategies regarding co-enrollment with other agencies/programs for effective wrap-around services for customers being served.
  4. What is the WDB's strategy for ensuring equitable and inclusive participation in and outcomes for this program?
  5. What agencies will the WDB partner with to identify and engage underrepresented individuals and groups? Please provide letters of commitment for partners that you will be working with as part of your proposal.
  6. How will the WDB validate and verify individuals who fall under the federal poverty guidelines? How will the WDB provide on-the-job training opportunities that will lead to economic self-sufficiency?

DWD Evaluation Process:

DWD will evaluate applications based on the attached evaluation criteria checklist provided as Attachment A.

Performance Metrics and Reporting Requirements

All WDBs receiving funding under this Request for Applications will be required to meet the following performance goals over the period of performance:

  • Employment in the 2nd quarter after exit;
  • Employment in the 4th quarter after exit; and
  • Measurable skill gain.

All WDBs receiving funding under this Request for Applications will be required to meet the following reporting requirements:

  • Submit monthly Financial Status Report in COMET;
  • Submit a Final Financial Status Report in COMET; and
  • Submit a Quarterly Narrative Report to DWD.