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ETA 99-017sga

Billing Code 4510-30

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Employment and Training Administration

AGENCY: Employment and Training Administration, Labor

ACTION: Notice of Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA).

SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Employment and Training Administration (ETA), announces a demonstration program to test innovative methods of providing reemployment assistance and training to eligible workers. Through this notice, DOL seeks to identify a national group of vanguard sites committed to implementing Individual Training Accounts (ITAs as described in the WIA) and to the establishment of an Eligible Provider List process that is consistent with the WIA framework and informed by best practice and insight from the field. Awardees under this program will serve as innovative national laboratories for ITA implementation. Awardees will receive intensive technical assistance, test new approaches and practices and participate in a rigorous evaluation. In addition, they will participate in and help structure national DOL activities meant to identify and disseminate lessons learned. The demonstration project will inform ITA development as part of state and workforce system-building more generally. The program will be funded with Secretary's National Reserve funds appropriated for Title III of the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) and administered in accordance with 29 CFR Part 95 and 97 as applicable. This notice describes the application submission requirements, the process that eligible entities must use to apply for funds covered by this solicitation, how awardees are to be selected and the technical assistance that will be provided prior to and following selection of awardees. It is anticipated that $6 million will be available for funding projects covered by this solicitation, that 10-12 projects will be selected for funding, and that the maximum grant award will not exceed $500,000 for a period of 18 months from the date of execution. This notice contains all of the necessary information and forms needed to apply for grant funding. In addition, applicants interested in becoming a demonstration site are encouraged to attend a Bidders' Conference. Information about these conferences will be posted on the Internet (http://www.usworkforce.org) as soon as it is available.

DATES: Applications for grant awards will be accepted commencing (date of publication). The closing date for receipt of applications is Monday, November 8, 1999, at 4:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) at the address below. Telefacsimile (FAX) applications will not be honored.

ADDRESSES: Applications shall be mailed to: U.S. Department of Labor; Employment and Training Administration; Division of Federal Assistance; Attention: Marian Floyd,

Reference: SGA/DFA 99-017; 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room S-4203; Washington, DC 20210.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Fax questions to Marian Floyd, Division of Federal Assistance at (202) 219-8739. This is not a toll-free number. All inquiries sent via fax should include the SGA number (DFA 99-017) and a contact name and phone number. This announcement is also being published on the Internet on the Employment and Training Administration's Home Page at http://doleta.gov. Award notifications will also be published on the Home Page.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This announcement consists of 5 parts. Part I describes the authority, purpose and goals of the demonstration program and identifies demonstration policy. Part II includes the statement of work for the demonstration projects. Part III describes the application process and provides guidelines for use in applying for demonstration grants. There is no separate application package. Part IV describes the selection process including the criteria used to select grantees and the process of application and award. Part V describes the Assurances required of grantees. Part VI describes the monitoring, reporting and evaluation activities that will be required of grantees. The Appendix includes application forms.

Part I. Authority

A. Background

Sections 322 through 324 of the JTPA authorizes the use for demonstration programs of funds reserved under Section 302 of JTPA (29 U.S.C. 1652) and provided by the Secretary for that purpose under Section 322 of JTPA (29 U.S.C. 1662a). Demonstration program awardees shall comply with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations in setting up and carrying out their programs.

B. Purpose

On August 7, 1998, President Clinton signed the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which is comprehensive reform legislation that supersedes the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA).

The WIA reforms the Federal job training system programs and creates a new, comprehensive workforce investment system. The reformed system will be customer-focused, to help Americans access any tools they need to manage their own careers through timely and accurate labor market information and high quality services, and to assist U.S. companies in securing adequate numbers of skilled workers. This new law embodies several key principles, including:

Streamlining services through better integration at the street level through the One-Stop delivery system. Programs and providers will co-locate, coordinate and integrate activities and information, so that the system as a whole is coherent and accessible for individuals and businesses alike.

Empowering individuals in several ways. First, adults eligible for training are given their own financial power to use Individual Training Accounts (ITA's) at qualifying institutions. Institutions wishing to qualify for acceptance of the ITA's will go through a new process to be placed on an Eligible Provider list, and must be required to continually meet standards of performance to remain on the list. Secondly, individuals are further empowered, through this process, with greater levels of key information on the performance outcomes of all training and educations providers in the ITA system. This will come to be known as Consumer Reporting. Third, individuals are empowered through the advice, guidance, and support available through the One-Stop system, and its partners.

Universal access. Any individual will have access to the One-Stop system and to core employment-related services. Information about job vacancies, career options, student financial aid, relevant employment trends, and instruction on how to conduct a job search, write a resume, or interview with an employer is available to any job seeker in the U.S., or anyone who wants to advance his or her career. While training and the use of ITA's are not universal services, all customers will have access to the Consumer Report information gathered on training institutions in the area through the Eligible Provider process.

Increased accountability. The goal of the Act is to increase employment, retention, and earnings of participants, and in doing so, improve the quality of the workforce to sustain economic growth, enhance productivity and competitiveness in the American labor force, and reduce welfare dependency. Consistent with this goal, the Act identifies core indicators of performance that State and local entities managing the workforce development system will have to meet - or face economic sanctions. However, state and local entities exceeding the levels can receive incentive funds. Training providers and their programs will also have to demonstrate successful performance to remain eligible to receive funds under the Act. Participants, with their ITA's, have the opportunity to make training choices based on program outcomes. To survive in the market, training providers must make accountability for performance and customer satisfaction a top priority.

Strong role for local workforce investment boards and the private sector, with local, business-led boards acting as "boards of directors" focusing on long range strategic planning, policy development and oversight of the local workforce investment system. The active involvement of business and labor is critical to understanding what skills are in demand, what jobs are available, what career fields are expanding, and what types of training programs will best meet local employer needs. Individual Training Accounts, as described in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), embody several elements believed central to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of publicly- funded reemployment services as well as improving participant satisfaction. Through this notice, DOL seeks to identify a national group of vanguard sites committed to implementing Individual Training Accounts (ITAs as described in the WIA) and to the establishment of an Eligible Provider List process that is consistent with the WIA framework and informed by best practice and insight from the field. Grantees under this program will serve as innovative national laboratories for ITA implementation. Partners will test new approaches and practices and participate in a rigorous evaluation. In addition, they will participate in and help structure national DOL activities meant to identify and disseminate lessons learned. The demonstration project will inform ITA development as part of state and workforce system-building more generally.

The establishment of the Eligible Provider List, and the use of ITA's to pay training costs has the potential to impact the quality of the workforce and the economic competitiveness of a state. The WIA includes these service elements in an effort to create a more market-oriented workforce development system. The foundation of this system is the Eligible Provider List and the Consumer Reports information which help the participant make an informed choice, based on his or her training needs, occupational interests, and vendor performance.

In such a system, it is hypothesized that training vendors can become more sharply focused on meeting the needs of individual customers. By taking into account the specials needs of various target groups that experience barriers to employment, including displaced homemakers, workers with limited English, individuals with disabilities, and those with basic skills deficits, the training vendors can structure their offerings to ensure that their enrollees are more likely to be successfully placed. Also, by being more responsive to the workforce development needs of employers, the vendors can structure their training so that employers get workers with skills that match their needs. Finally, it is also held that a market-driven ITA/Eligible Provider system can ultimately provide better consumer information, services and training opportunities to customers - and, in doing so, assist them in making successful employment transitions throughout their careers.

The potential for ITAs to support these goals and objectives is supported from demonstration data in the field. Through this demonstration, we seek to build on the lessons learned in previous training voucher demonstrations and the current knowledge base. One recent DOL-funded initiative, the Career Management Account (CMA) Demonstration, provides instructive lessons on the practices and processes of implementing an ITA-type approach for participants in Title III programs. Other demonstrations give lessons on how to structure a customer choice system for adult training. This knowledge base will be used to inform the programs developed by the sites selected to participate in this demonstration program.

The ITA Demonstration seeks to support the design and implementation of the Workforce Investment Act by testing approaches that best fuel the creation of a more market-like environment for adult worker re-training. In addition to this demonstration, the Department of Labor is undertaking a range of related activities including an Evaluation, the Exchange of Technical Assistance and Information, ITA Software Development, and the Expansion of ITA's in Labor-Management Training Partnerships. Information on these activities wil be posted on ETA's website as it becomes available.

C. Demonstration Project Goals

The chief goals of the demonstration include:

  • Support of system-building at the state and local levels;
  • Rigorous testing of several key models or approaches to the establishment of an Eligible Provider process and the ITA payment system;
  • Identification of key components of effective ITA implementation;
  • Support for demonstration "learning laboratory" sites in designing and implementing innovative ITA\Eligible Provider processes and systems;
  • Development of a learning network and strategy for information sharing, as wellas the provision of technical assistance between demonstration "learning laboratory" sites and other WIA implementation sites as the system moves toward full implementation by July 1, 2000.

D. Demonstration Policy

1. Grant Awards

DOL anticipates awarding ten to twelve grants. Successful applicants will receive grants of up to $500,000.

2. Eligible Applicants

Entities eligible to apply to participate in the ITA Demonstration Program include States, PICs/Workforce Investment Boards, and consortiums of PICs or Workforce Investment Boards.

3. Eligible Participants

The demonstration should include and service all persons eligible for WIA training. This demonstration is not for direct client services, however the products will benefit adult and dislocated worker training enrollment.

4. Allowable Activities

In general, grant funds may be used to support the research and development, planning and capacity-building activities involved in implementing the ITA/Eligible Provider system. Following are some examples of how these funds might be used to support implementation:

 

  • development and delivery of inservice training courses that help case managers understand their new role in supporting individual customer decision making and choice;
  • development and delivery of orientation sessions to help ensure that customers understand their responsibilities and opportunities within an ITA system;
  • development and delivery of orientation sessions on ITAs and the Eligible Provider process for current and potential training providers;
  • development of a system to track training provider performance;
  • development of an ITA expenditure reporting system to provide individuals with information on the status of their account balances;
  • other related costs associated with implementation of ITAs and Eligible Provider systems; and travel and other expenses related to participation in networking and dissemination activities offered in conjunction with the Demonstration grant program.
Demonstration funds are not intended to support direct training expenditures, as the demonstration is for building the ITA/Eligible Provider system itself. However, to supplement other funds available for this purpose, an applicant may budget no more than 20% of the total grant costs for training.

5. Coordination

Applicants will be expected to link demonstration project activities with other state and local WIA implementation activities. Evidence of collaboration should be included in the grant application.

6. Period of Performance

The period of performance shall be 18 months from the date of execution by the Government. Delivery of services to participants shall commence within 90 days of execution of a grant.

7. Option to Extend

Depending upon the availability of funds and awardee's performance, there may be an option for extension of the grant award not to exceed a two program year period.

Part II. Statement of Work

DOL seeks innovative practitioners to collaborate with others in the development and refinement of various models of ITA application and in the establishment and use of a list of eligible training providers as envisioned in the WIA. Applicants should have a strong vision and passion for moving beyond current practices with and conceptions of these activities. In order for applicants to successfully compete for and participate in the ITA Demonstration Program they must demonstrate their understanding of and commitment to a rigorous implementation of the ITA\Eligible Provider List system envisioned by the WIA.

At a minimum, successful applicants must demonstrate commitment to the implementation of an

ITA/Eligible Provider system that:

  • Clearly identifies and communicates the ITA\Eligible Provider process and goals to all eligible customers;
  • Provides mechanisms for participant control over the use of the ITA account, and control over decision-making relative to individual training choices with the use of the Eligible Provider Listing;
  • Provides a process for determining how a customer's training decision is approved;
  • Provides an environment of information-sharing and related services to facilitate a market-based approach to training;
  • Describes the eventual establishment of a "Consumer Report" on the performance of training providers on the Eligible Training Provider list.

The US DOL anticipates that the demonstration may test more than one design approach to ITA implementation. An overview of the key design elements of the demonstration is provided below. Applicant experience, ideas and proposals can be incorporated into the demonstration design.

1. Common Elements of the Demonstration

The ITA Demonstration Projects will include several common elements. In addition the demonstration will test several variations on how individual training accounts may be implemented across the country. While some of the design elements will constrain the design of the demonstrations to some degree, there are many other elements that are not specified here. These include, for example, the provider eligibility criteria, payment mechanism, participant enrollment and assessment processes, and role of community-based organizations as service providers. The approach to such issues is left to the discretion of the applicants.

 

 

Common Elements of ITA/Eligible Provider Demonstrations

Element

Approach

What participants are included?

All Adult Training ITA participants are included

Do participants know the amount of the ITA?

Participants are informed of the dollar amount available in their ITA

What provider information must be collected?

Provider performance data, consistent with WIA requirements, must be collected and disseminated to participants

How are new providers brought in?

Inclusion of new providers must be allowed easily and quickly; participants allowed to "nominate" new providers

How are providers paid?

Providers are paid for vouchers on a timely basis, that is, within 30 days

How do staff learn about ITAs?

Staff receive orientation and training regarding the ITA process and the role they will play in implementation

How will customer satisfaction be determined?

Sites must agree to administer a common customers satisfaction survey to all participants

How will staff satisfaction be determined?

Sites must agree to administer a common customers satisfaction survey to all staff

What triggers the ITA?

Development of an Individual Employment Plan including an assessment process.


2. Variable Elements of the Demonstration

In addition to the Common Elements described above, there are several other elements of the ITA/Eligible Provider design that are at the discretion of the applicant. The US DOL is looking for applicants who are interested in aggressive and creative approaches that fall within the parameters of WIA. Some examples of these considerations are presented below:

 

 

Variable Elements of ITA/Eligible Provider Demonstrations

Element

Possibilities

How is the dollar amount of ITA determined?

Is the dollar amount of ITA fixed for all participants? Does it vary among individuals based on assessment?

Who approves the ITA?

Is it the counselor, a person other than the counselor, or a committee that must approve the ITA?

What career direction is allowed?

Does the customer have the final authority to choose a career direction so long as credible job opportunities exist? Is career direction limited to demand occupations as defined by WIB?

How is informed customer choice provided?

What is the role of the case manager?

Who has final authority on selection of the training provider?

Within the boundaries of the training plan, does the participant have final authority to select a training provider? Can the counselor reject a customer's selection of a training provider?

What can the ITA pay for?

How may ITA funds be used?


C. Bidders' Conferences.

Applicants interested in becoming a demonstration site are strongly encouraged to attend one of two full-day Bidders' Conferences. The purpose of these sessions is to summarize the current knowledge base about ITAs/Eligible Provider system goals, frameworks and implementation processes and to review the goals and objectives of the Demonstration Project. Attendees will learn about the technical assistance services that will be provided to awardees and the expectations for awardee involvement in designing, testing, and evaluating alternative approaches to ITA/Eligible Provider implementation. This session will be offered free of charge to prospective applicants on a space-available basis. Attendees will, however, have to pay for their own travel and lodging. Attendance at this session is strongly encouraged but voluntary. No written summary of the meeting will be distributed and applicants not in attendance will not lose rating points on their proposal.

Part III. Application Process and Guidelines

A. Contents

Applicants must submit four (4) copies of their proposal, with original signatures. The application shall consist of a Technical Proposal that includes both the statement of work and cost data as it relates to the demonstration project plan. The Technical Proposal shall also contain the (SF) 424, "Application for Federal Assistance (Appendix A) and the "Budget Information Form" (Appendix B). All copies of the (SF) 424 MUST have original signatures of the legal entity applying for grant funding. Applicants shall indicate on the (SF) 424 the organization's IRS status, if applicable. According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, Section 18, an organization described in Section 501 (c) 4 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 which engages in lobbying activities shall not be eligible for the receipt of federal funds constituting an award, grant, or loan. The Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog number is 17.246. Applicants should follow the instructions included with the attachments. Technical Proposal The technical proposal shall demonstrate the offeror's capabilities in accordance with the Statement of Work in Part II of this solicitation. It is advised that the technical proposal be formated according to the evalution criteria (Part IV). Each application shall also include a Time line outlining project activities, and an Executive Summary not to exceed two pages. A grant application shall be limited to 15 double-spaced, single-side, 8.5-inch x 11- inch pages with 1-inch margins. Attachments shall not exceed 5 pages. Text type shall be 11 point or larger. Applications that do not meet these requirements will not be considered. SINCE COST EFFECTIVENESS IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE SELECTION CRITERIA, COST DATA SHOULD BE INCLUDED WITH THE TECHNICAL PROPOSAL. Budget categories are administration a nd program activities, and should be planned in accordance with recent changes in the Department of Labor financial reporting requirements. B. Hand-Delivered Applications Applications should be mailed no later than five (5) days prior to the closing date for the receipt of applications. However if applications are hand-delivered, they must be received at the designated place by 4:00 p.m., Eastern Time on the closing date for receipt of applications. All overnight mail will be considered to be hand-delivered and must be received at the designated place by the specified time and closing date. Telegraphed and/or faxed proposals will not be honored. Applications that fail to adhere to the above instructions will not be honored.

C. Late Applications

Any application received at the office designated in the solicitation after the exact time specified for receipt will not be considered unless it:

(1) was sent by U.S. Postal Service registered or certified mail not later than the fifth calender day before the closing date specified for receipt of applications (e.g., an offer submitted in response to a solicitation requiring receipt of application by the 10th of August must have been mailed by the 5th); or

(2) was sent by U.S. Postal Service Express Mail Next Day Service-Post Office to Addressee, not later than 5:00 p.m. at the place of mailing two working days prior to the date specified for receipt of application. The term "working days" excludes weekends and U.S. Federal holidays. The only acceptable evidence to establish the date of mailing of a late application sent by U.S. Postal Service registered or certified mail is the U.S. postmark on the envelope or wrapper and on the original receipt from the U.S. Postal Service.

The only acceptable evidence to establish the date of mailing of a late application sent by "Express Mail Next-Day Service-Post Office to Addressee" is the date entered by the post office receiving clerk on the "Express Mail Next Day Service-Post Office to Addressee"and the postmarks on both the envelope and wrapper and the original receipt from the U.S. Postal Service.

D. Withdrawal of Applications

Applications may be withdrawn by written notice or telegram (including mailgram) received at any time before award. Applications may be withdrawn in person by the applicant or by an authorized representative thereof, if the representative's identity is made known and the representative signs a receipt for the proposal.

Part IV. Review Process and Evaluation Criteria

A careful evaluation of applications will be made by a technical review panel who will evaluate the applications against the criteria below. The panel results are advisory in nature and not binding on the Grant Officer. The Government may elect to award the grant with or without discussions with the offeror. In situations without discussions, an award will be based on the offeror's signature on the (SF) 424, which constitutes a binding offer. Awards will be those in the best interest of the Government, but also considering factors such as urban/rural characteristics of the sites and that several variations of the design are thoroughly tested. It is important that applicants demonstrate that they are positioned to experiment with new designs and share learning that can contribute to the development of successful systems elsewhere. Applicants should demonstrate their interest in and capacity for helping to define the key components of an effective ITA/Eligible Provider List System.

EVALUATION CRITERIA

1. Applicant Qualifications (10 points)

  1. Indicate whether the applicant is a workforce investment board (or private industry council), a consortium of multiple boards, or a state.
    1. If applicant is a local organization, describe involvement with other locals and the state in development of the proposal.
    2. If applicant is a consortium, indicate which will be the lead organization, and describe any projects previously undertaken together. Also discuss how the consortium will be coordinated and managed.
    3. If applicant is a state, describe involvement of local areas in development of the proposal and operation of the demonstration.
  2. Describe applicant's organization(s), including a brief history, number of staff, size and demographic nature of workforce development area served.

2. Interest and Commitment (20 points)

  1. Describe applicant's interest in contributing to the development of innovative approaches to ITA implementation.
  2. Explain applicant's interest in treating the development of an ITA/Eligible Provider system as a priority over other workforce development system innovations.
  3. Describe applicant's commitment to achieving project objectives in a manner that also supports national objectives.
  4. Discuss applicant's commitment to assist the US DOL in building staff capacity throughout the WIA system in these areas.

3. Previous Experience (10 points)

  1. Describe applicant's previous experience, if any, with designing and/or implementing ITAs, or any other voucher-type programs, or any type of Consumer Reporting.
  2. Discuss applicant's history of peer assistance with learning from program innovations, especially on a regional or national basis.
  3. Provide an example of a creative approach the applicant organization(s) has designed to improve the area's workforce development system.

4. Approach (40 points)

  1. Describe the objectives of this activity
  2. Describe the approach to the demonstration in terms of design and implementation.
  3. Describe how the common elements of the demonstration, as outlined in Section II.1 are included in the approach.
  4. Describe the applicant's intended approach to the variable elements of the demonstration, as outlined in Section II.2.
  5. Describe key considerations in designing an effective ITA\Eligible Provider system and the applicant's approach to dealing with them.
  6. Discuss potential roadblocks the applicant may encounter in implementing a newly designed ITA\Eligible Provider system.
  7. Present a time line for implementation.
  8. Describe how applicant would utilize demonstration funds, if awarded, for system-planning and development activities.
  9. Provide evidence of support from state and local partners as appropriate.

5. Cost Effectiveness (20 points)

a Proposed costs are reasonable in relation to the overall objectives of the project, the activities planned, the time frame of the project, the organizational scope (including the number of individuals and the number of organizations involved), coordination/collaboration with other entities, and in relation to other projects of similar size and scope.

V. Assurances

Successful applicants must give several assurances, including that they will fully participate in a post-award grantee design workshop, agree to participate in the peer learning process, serve as a learning site for future implementors of ITAs and Eligible Provider Lists, and participate in USDOL evaluations as necessary. All applicants must provide the full list of assurances as follows.

 

  • work in close collaboration with state and local partners in the design development of the ITA/Eligible Provider system
  • participate fully in the program design process
  • provide capacity-building activities for all levels of staff, reaching
  • all partner organizations including contract training providers, such as community based organizations
  • cooperate with US DOL technical assistance providers, including on-site visitations
  • participate in the peer learning process, including serving as a learning site for future implementors of ITAs
  • participate in US DOL evaluations
  • assist the US DOL in building staff capacity throughout the WIA System in these areas.
  • participate in staff training activities planned by DOL-ETA

In addition, the budget shall provide sufficient funds for a total of four persons trips for travel to meetings in Washington, D.C. and other locations.

Part VI. Monitoring, Reporting and Evaluation

A. Monitoring

The Department shall be responsible for ensuring effective implementation of each competitive grant project in accordance with the Act, the Regulations, the provisions of this announcement and the negotiated grant agreement. Applicants should assume that at least one on-site project review will be conducted by Department staff, or their designees. This review will focus on the project's performance in meeting the grant's programmatic goals and participant outcomes, complying with the requirements for participants who are served, expenditure of grant funds on allowable activities, collaboration with other organizations as required, and methods for assessment of the responsiveness and effectiveness of the services being provided. Grants may be subject to additional reviews at the discretion of the Department.

B. Reporting

US DOL will arrange for or provide technical assistance to awardees in establishing appropriate reporting and data collection methods and processes. An effort will be made to accommodate and provide assistance to awardees to be able to complete all reporting electronically. Applicants selected as grantees will be required to provide the following reports:

  1. Monthly and Quarterly progress reports
  2. Standard Form 269, Financial Status Report Form, on a quarterly basis
  3. Final Project Report including an assessment of project performance. This report will be submitted in hard copy and on electronic disk utilizing a format and instructions to be provided by the Department.

C. Evaluation

DOL will arrange for or an independent evaluation of the outcomes, impacts, and benefits of the demonstration projects. The RFP # DCS-99-28 describes the Evaluation criteria and is available for review at http://www.wdsc.org/sga/rfp/rfp99-28.htm. Grantees must agree to make records available to evaluation personnel, as specified by the evaluator(s) under the direction of the Department.

Signed at Washington D.C., this 18 th day of August, 1999.

Laura A. Cesario
Grant Officer
Division of Federal Assistance


Appendices
Appendix A: (SF) 424 - Application for Federal Assistance
Appendix B: Budget Information Form