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Workforce Pathways for Youth grants available

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Workforce Pathways for Youth grants available

In March, the Department of Labor published a Notice of Funding Opportunity for Workforce Pathways for Youth Grants. A pre-recorded applicant webinar will be available by April 14, 2023 and applications will be due May 19, 2023.

The grants offer up to $2 million to national out-of-school time (OST) organizations funding youth ages 14-21 with workforce readiness, pathways and experience, including career exploration, foundational/soft skill development, work-based learning, certifications, apprenticeships and other work experience. Funding will also support partnerships between the youth serving organizations and workforce development boards. The funding is expected to serve about eight projects with $15 million of funds available.

The grants lean on recent America After 3PM data noting that only 11 percent of students in afterschool programs are high school-aged, while rural, low-income students, and communities of color are statistically least likely to have access. Grants aim to establish lasting partnerships between OST providers, schools and workforce partners that help youth onto career pathways aligned with the Departments “Good Jobs Principles.” Three recent pieces of legislation, the Bipartisan Infrastructure LA (BIL), CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act all provide opportunities for career pathways to in-demand careers. The Department of Labor recognizes how tying the jobs associated with those industries with youth workforce development will be critical.

In addition to the career readiness, mentorship, partnership and paid work experience pieces, grants can also cover supportive services: “Supportive services are a routine part of high-quality workforce development programs, and evidence shows that they contribute to participants completing programs, particularly those from underserved communities, which leads to opportunities for advancement into better jobs. Supportive services can include, but are not limited to, childcare, transportation, food, mental health counseling, legal assistance, financial counseling, referrals for drug treatment, provision of work tools or work clothes, and needs-related payments/emergency cash assistance.”

This work ties nicely into the Department of Labor’s Youth Employment Works Initiative which launched in a summit March 9. This initiative, which is an expansive endeavor, also considers well-rounded opportunities by ensuring that those working with youth have appropriate preparation. A related memo on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Youth formula program (09-22) “strongly encourages local workforce development boards to offer professional development training to all staff that work with youth, and quality mental health training along with training related to trauma-informed care principles should be included.”

The Departments of Education, Labor and Commerce are continuing their coordination on an interagency initiative, “Unlocking Career Success,” aiming to make the high school, college, and career relationships more seamless through four main strategies: dual enrollment, work-based learning, workforce credentials, and career advising and navigation. In a somewhat parallel opportunity to the DOL grants, the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE)  is offering a Career Z challenge to fund school district partners to innovate work-based learning experiences for youth. The Career Z Challenge has a recommended registration component requested by April 11 and grant applications will be due by May 24.

Past recipients of Workforce Pathways for Youth Grant can be found on the DOL webpages.

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