For months, community college leaders have been looking for ways to take advantage of the vast resources the federal government is pouring into infrastructure projects. For the most part, infrastructure funds will not flow directly to community colleges, despite the fact that additional funds are clearly needed to meet projected workforce education demand for skills infrastructure projects.
However, in welcome news, the US Department of Labor (DOL) has just released an infrastructure-related funding opportunity that community colleges can apply for directly. These stand alongside the resources that community colleges can access by working with other stakeholders at the state and local levels.
The Department of Labor just released a dossier Announcement of a financing opportunity (FOA) for Construction pathways grant program to infrastructure jobs, which “will invest in public-private partnerships to develop, implement, and expand sector strategy training programs that focus on workers in H-1B industries and occupations critical to achieving the goals of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL).” The funding source for the program, as the description indicates, is not from the BIL itself, but rather from the pool of money that results each year from the fees companies pay to hire international workers on H-1B visas.
The grants will focus on jobs in “advanced manufacturing; information technology; and professional, scientific, and technical professions that support the renewable energy, transportation, and broadband infrastructure sectors.”
Education and training providers, including community colleges, may be prime grant applicants. Others include state and local governments, trade associations, unions, and more. Required partners include employers, education and training providers, workforce system entities (eg, workforce development boards), unions or labor management organizations, and a state apprenticeship agency for applications using registered apprenticeships from states with SAA.
The FOA includes two funding rounds, one this year and one next. The first round will award $80 million in grants and the two rounds combined will total $200 million. Applications for the first round are due by July 7.
The second round will open on March 15, 2024, with applications due by June 6, 2024.
The Ministry of Labor will provide grants in the development track and the expansion track. Grants in the development pathway aim to “establish local and regional partnerships that will develop and implement employee-centered sector strategy training programs in one or more infrastructure-related sectors.” Expansion Path grants will go to well-established and effective partnerships to expand their geographic reach, and can be national.
DOL recommends a 15% match for Development Path grants and requires this match for a Scaling Track award. Funding will be split roughly in half between the two tracks, and applicants can only apply for one of the tracks.
Of note is the fact that two priority points will be allocated to projects that serve small communities and/or rural communities. For-profit organizations are excluded from funding.