TechHire Applicant FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions from Opportunity@Work and JFF TechHire Applicant Webinar

February 5, 2016

On January 12, 2016, Opportunity@Work hosted a webinar where Jobs for the Future (JFF) provided an overview of the TechHire Grants Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA).  In response to questions posed during and subsequent to that webinar, JFF prepared the following list of frequently asked questions and answers to provide potential applicants with additional technical assistance.  As noted during the webinar, neither Opportunity@Work nor JFF are involved in any part of the $100 million TechHire grant process. The grant solicitation was designed and is being administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.  This document refers to specific sections of the TechHire FOA, and applicants should refer to the FOA itself when reviewing it, along with any amendments and FAQs issued by DOL.

1. How are outcomes measured for participants in these programs?

The FOA identifies seven numerical outcome projections on p. 32, which are then defined further in Appendix C (p. 68).  Some of the outcome projections have specific, detailed definitions.  Applicants should also carefully review the notes in Appendix C.  For example, applicants are instructed to provide targets for each year of the grant and for the total grant period. They will also be required to report outcomes in alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as applicable.

2. If an applicant chooses to target 17-29 year olds as its primary population, can 25% of individuals served be from other age groups—or must 100% of individuals served be in the 17-29 age group?

The FOA indicates that for projects targeting “Youth and Young Adults with Barriers to Training and Employment Opportunities” as their target population, at least 75% of the project participants must come from the target population, and thus must be 17-29 years of age.  The FOA also indicates that up to 25% of the remaining participants may come from other populations, such as unemployed workers.  The FAQ that ETA recently provided notes that all eligible participants must be at least 17 years of age, but there do not appear to be additional age parameters imposed on these other populations of individuals.

3. Does ETA provide a definition or parameters for “out-of-secondary” school?

The FAQ that ETA recently provided states that secondary school generally refers to the last four years of formal instruction.  It further notes that in the U.S. the standard qualification awarded to students who graduate from secondary school after 12 years of formal instruction is a High School diploma, or equivalent secondary diploma or certificate.  It also states that all eligible participants must be out-of-secondary school, as well as be at least 17 years of age, as noted above.  Please refer to the FAQ for additional information.

4. Can a single project address both project types 1 and 2 (i.e. “Youth and Young Adults with Barriers to Training and Employment Opportunities” and “Special Populations with Barriers to Training and Employment Opportunities”)?

The FOA states that applicants should propose projects that target only one of the target populations.

5. What parameters does the FOA provide regarding the types of industries and occupations which applicants may target?

The FOA provides detailed instructions regarding the types of industries and occupations that can be targeted.  There are specific industries that are permissible to target, and the FOA also provides parameters for targeting occupations outside these specific industries.  We suggest that applicants either target occupations within these permissible industries, or follow the FOA’s parameters when targeting occupations outside these industries.   

The FOA notes that TechHire grants will fund projects that support well-paying, middle- and high-skilled, and high-growth jobs across a diversity of H-1B industries in the area applicants are proposing to serve.  The FOA is very explicit that TechHire projects could occur in both IT and non-IT industries.  The FOA includes a specific list of H-1B industries that are permissible for applicants to target (e.g. healthcare, advanced manufacturing), and also makes it clear that it's permissible to target occupations outside those industries.  Applications that propose to target occupations outside the identified industries must provide data showing that the occupation is one for which H-1B visas have been certified.   

6. Can you provide more examples of leveraged resources? Can federal resources be considered leveraged resources?

The FOA includes a good description of leveraged resources on p. 37.  As the FOA states, leveraged resources can include “funds and other resources leveraged from businesses, labor organizations, education and training providers, and/or Federal, state, and local government programs.”  Leveraged resources can include both cash and in-kind contributions, and can include federal resources.  Examples of leveraged resources include staff time to advise on curriculum development, donated equipment, the use of space for training, and donated supplies.

7. Would you elaborate on the kinds of evidence needed to document workforce demand for specific positions in order to make a strong proposal?

The FOA identifies four sub-criterion that applicants must fully address related to the statement of need.  The second sub-criterion specifically focuses on the current and future demand for employment in the applicants' selected occupations and industries.  We suggest that in order to fully address this sub-criterion, applicants demonstrate strong evidence of demand, drawing from a variety of sources.  When citing demand, applicants could cite data such as total numbers of current and future employment in specific occupations and industries, job growth in specific occupations and industries, job openings in these occupations and industries, and average, current wages.  The variety of sources cited could include traditional labor market information (LMI), real-time LMI, and input from employers.  Data that specifically relates to the service area targeted will be very effective (such as data that relates to a targeted region), where it can be provided, and the FOA asks that data reflect the service area proposed to the extent possible.  Specific feedback from regional employers can be very compelling.

8. Will current TechHire designated cities receive priority in receiving funding for this grant opportunity or will all applicants be given equal opportunity?

The FOA notes that while it supports the broader goals of the White House TechHire Initiative, no preference is given to designated TechHire communities.

9. Does the size of employers matter when creating a consortium or including business partners? For example, will any preference be given to large employers vs. small employers?

The FOA does not indicate preference for specific sizes of employers, and does not identify a preference for either large or small employers.  We suggest that some of the key factors that applicants should consider when determining whether to partner with an employer include the strength of the employer’s commitment to the project, the breadth of the employer partnership (i.e., the variety of ways in which the employer will be involved in the project), and whether the project will be able to attain the performance goals on p. 16 of the FOA with these specific employer partners.  

10. How do supportive services and specialized participant services differ?

The FOA provides detailed descriptions of these types of services on p. 48.  The description of supportive services appears very similar to the types of supportive services that have traditionally been funded through the Workforce Investment Act/WIOA, such as transportation and child-care services.  Specialized participant services appear to be services that are specifically focused on the barriers to employment facing targeted populations, such as individuals with disabilities.  For example, these services can include appropriate assistive technologies.  We suggest that applicants focus on the totality of services that can be funded through these grants, rather than trying to distinguish between the services; the FOA provides grantees with the ability to tackle an array of barriers by allowing them to use up to 35% of their grant funds on these two types of services (combined).

11. What is the expected start date for the program? How firm are ETA’s expectations regarding that date?  

The anticipated start date for the grants is June 1, 2016. The FOA states that ETA expects that grantees will begin serving participants no later than 6 months after the date of grant award, and applicants should assume that ETA will hold them to this expectation, and develop their project plans accordingly.  

12. Are partners required or encouraged for all grants?

The FOA is very explicit that that there are specific partnership requirements for these grants.  Applications must include at least one representative of three types of entities, as described on pp. 17 – 19 of the FOA.  It is very important to note that applications that do not include all three entities mentioned in the FOA will be considered non-responsive and will not be reviewed.  The FOA also includes additional information on required partners on pp. 20 and 21.  The FOA also identifies optional partners that could be included in applications.  

13. Does this FOA require that applicants submit a letter of intent to submit an application to ETA, prior to submitting their full application?

The FOA does not include this type of requirement.

14. Has ETA issued any amendments to this FOA?

Yes, ETA issued an amendment on December 18, 2015. The amendment included text that removed the 10% limit on administrative costs.

15. What is Jobs for the Future’s role in this FOA?

Opportunity@Work hosted a webinar where JFF provided an overview of the TechHire FOA released by ETA. Neither Opportunity@Work nor JFF are involved in any part of the $100 million TechHire grant process. The grant solicitation was designed and is being administered by USDOL. Outside of this process, JFF is serving as an information resource to potential TechHire applicants. 

JFF can also help address the critical design and implementation issues in the TechHire FOA, helping applicants implement effective projects.  We welcome the opportunity to talk with you about your approach to TechHire Partnership grants and whether there is a role for JFF’s expertise in your project design. Download a summary of our services.

Please contact Tom Hooper at thooper@jff.org for more information.