Policy Analysis | October 2014

Federal Government Awards $450 Million in Workforce Development Grants to States

Sujit CanagaRetna

Public and private sector officials alike realize that comprehensively training America’s workers for available positions in a number of emerging fields remains a critical ingredient in advancing our economy at the state, regional and national levels. In an effort to recruit and train workers to staff the sophisticated 21st century manufacturing jobs in many parts of the country, states are actively providing workforce training programs to their residents. The economic development agencies in a number of states belonging to the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), the Southern office of The Council of State Governments, place a great deal of emphasis on these training support programs and work closely with their community college system and their corporate partners to ensure that students receive the most up-to-date and wide-ranging training to staff these demanding positions. The SLC has been closely tracking the issue of state efforts to advance workforce development for several years in multiple ways: publications, Webinars and presentations.1

In a significant boost to these state efforts, in late September 2014, the federal government announced the awarding of $450 million in job-driven training grants that would be disbursed to nearly 270 community colleges across the country, a process that will be co-administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education.2 The grants are designed to provide community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to partner with employers to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that will help job seekers get the skills they need for in-demand jobs in industries like information technology, healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing.

An important component of these federal grants is the ability of the community and technical colleges to partner with private sector entities in crafting training programs that directly relate to the needs of the private sector. As indicated in a number of previous SLC publications, the SLC states have been extremely proactive on this front and have collaborated effectively with different private companies to facilitate this process. For instance, North Carolina’s collaboration between the private sector and community college system in fostering worker training has a long history of national recognition. Specifically, Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) and Siemens Energy, both located in Charlotte, have a highly effective partnership building and developing a talent pipeline to address Siemens’ workforce needs with suitably trained workers.3 In a development that affirms this partnership, a review of the September 2014 federal grant distributions indicates that CPCC was the recipient of a $2.5 million award. Table 1 provides details on the federal workforce development grants provided to the community colleges and technical colleges in the SLC states.

Table 1: U.S. Government Job Training Grant Disbursements to the SLC States

State City Recipient Funding Amount
AL Birmingham Lawson State Community College $10,000,000.00
AR West Memphis Mid-South Community College $9,814,818.00
FL Miami Miami Dade College Kendall Campus $9,977,296.00
FL Orlando Valencia College $2,499,902.00
GA Thomasville Southwest Georgia Technical College $2,322,718.00
KY Hazard Hazard Community and Technical College $10,000,000.00
LA Bossier City Bossier Parish Community College $2,499,325.00
LA New Orleans Delgado Community College $2,498,457.00
MO Kansas City Metropolitan Community College $19,724,404.00
MS Decatur East Central Community College $2,499,950.00
NC Charlotte Central Piedmont Community College $2,499,378.00
OK Oklahoma City Oklahoma City Community College $2,497,340.00
SC Graniteville Aiken Technical College $2,455,839.00
TN Memphis Southwest Tennessee Community College $2,387,247.00
TX Dallas Richland College $3,250,000.00
TX Waco Texas State Technical College - Waco $2,378,924.00
VA Danville Danville Community College $2,500,000.00
VA Middletown Lord Fairfax Community College $3,250,000.00
VA Cedar Bluff Southwest Virginia Community College $2,500,000.00
VA Hampton Thomas Nelson Community College $2,476,840.00
VA Petersburg Virginia State University $3,249,817.00
WV Huntington Mountwest Community & Technical College $9,461,288.00

Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/29/fact-sheet-vice-president-biden-announces-recipients-450-million-job-dri (accessed October 1, 2014)

There were 23 institutions located in the SLC states that received grants from the federal government to promote workforce development. Several of these institutions received some of the largest disbursements, including Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, Arkansas ($9.8 million); Miami-Dade College (Kendall Campus) in Miami, Florida ($10 million); Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama ($10 million); Hazard Community and Technical College in Hazard, Kentucky ($10 million); and Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Missouri, the second highest grant awarded ($19.7 million).

In highlighting the expertise of the different institutions, the federal grant distribution news release noted the following with regard to institutions in the SLC states:

  • Scale-up Southeast Louisiana (SELA) for Energy and Advanced Manufacturing Jobs at Delgado Community College ($2.5 million): Working with companies such as ExxonMobil, Laitram, U.S. Heritage Powersports, Lockheed Martin and Phillips 66, Scale-Up SELA will fulfill the needs of business and industry in Southeastern Louisiana by offering high-skilled, high-wage, competency-based training programs that meet employer and industry needs. The project will focus on taking participants not ready for college level academic work, including those without a high school diploma, and offer training in academic reading, writing and math skills in the context of real world applications in manufacturing and energy. Partner employers will contribute to program design, implementation, and continuous improvement; provide employment and work-based training opportunities; and resources such as equipment, facilities and instructors. The program expects to train 1,150 students during the next three years for jobs in welding, machining, electrical and industrial maintenance.
  • Kentucky Consortia for Information Technology Job Pathways in Computer and Medical Fields ($10 million): Six Kentucky community colleges, Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC); Big Sandy Community and Technical College (CTC); Jefferson CTC; Somerset Community College; Southeast Kentucky CTC; and West Kentucky CTC; have formed a consortium to create the next generation expansion of Kentucky’s online, personalized, competency-based learning system to serve more than 700 workers. This consortium will develop five new degrees in major information technology (IT) pathways in the computer and medical fields that include 11 stackable4 certificates, all of which will be developed in concert with regional and national employers. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Foundation, a national industry association for health information technology, as well as the Kentucky Workforce Development Cabinet, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, will assist the EPIC Consortium in these efforts. The consortium also will implement already proven, evidence-based models from Per Scholas5 and Jobs for the Future6 in training low-skill individuals for IT jobs with strong job placement and retention rates and wage gains.
  • Texas Manufacturing and Electronics Technology Program for Veterans ($3.2 million): The Veterans-Focused Engineering Technology Project (VFETP) will leverage Richland College’s (located in Dallas) existing programs in manufacturing and electronics technology, viable commitments from employers, and Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training funds to meet the needs of veterans interested in acquiring skills to be competitive in the job market. The VFETP will offer certificates in supervisory control and data acquisition and electromechanical maintenance and will work with the National Institute for Metalworking Skills and the International Society of Certified Electronic Technicians to offer credentials that have been requested by Richland College’s employer partners. The VFETP also will offer veterans and spouses the option to complete most core courses and some field-specific courses online, including safety and technical algebra, in their last six months of service, and finish their Associate of Applied Science degrees within one year after discharge. More than 15 employers including Texas Instruments, Oncor, and Raytheon, already have indicated that they will hire program graduates alongside committing to supporting curricula development, offering internships, providing on-the-job training, and developing applied problems for students.


Experts rank an adequate supply of skilled workers positioned to tackle the challenges of the complex 21st century manufacturing arena a critical ingredient in promoting a successful state economic development strategy, particularly in setting up manufacturing facilities. A number of studies in recent years have documented the serious skills shortage in the contemporary American manufacturing sector, a development that could impede the resurgent manufacturing sector in the United States. These reports maintain that, unless policymakers rapidly enact aggressive policies to train and retrain a new generation of manufacturing workers, America’s economic prowess in the 21st century will be seriously jeopardized. In response, a number of states across the country, particularly in the SLC region, have been extremely proactive in meeting the needs of the diverse manufacturing companies locating and expanding in their states by providing a range of workforce development opportunities after effectively partnering with community and technical colleges.

Manufacturing companies locating in the SLC states, particularly the automotive and aeronautics companies, often cite the ability of SLC states to provide an appropriately trained labor pool as an important consideration in their location decisions. Toward further reinforcing this goal, the decision of the federal government to award $450 million in grants to community and technical colleges across the country remains an important step in the direction of ensuring that the United States produces a cadre of competent, highly-trained manufacturing workers. The collaborative role, involving state policymakers and private companies in designing the training programs at the technical and community colleges, is another hallmark of a strategy that is increasingly gaining traction in the states.

1 For additional and details on SLC publications on the topic, please see http://www.slcatlanta.org/Publications/EconDev/workdev_web.pdf, http://www.slcatlanta.org/Publications/EconDev/TireManufacturingSouth.pdf and http://www.slcatlanta.org/Publications/EconDev/SouthernAerospace.pdf.

2 http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/29/fact-sheet-vice-president-biden-announces-recipients-450-million-job-dri (Accessed October 1, 2014)

3 For additional details on this CPCC/Siemens partnership, see http://www.slcatlanta.org/Publications/EconDev/workdev_web.pdf, page 16.

4 Stackable certificates allow a student to quickly achieve an industry certification at a community college that leads directly to employment. Typically, these programs are geared toward adult learners, with schedules more open to individuals with jobs and families.

5 Founded in 1995 as a neighborhood-based effort to increase access to personal computers, Per Scholas was an early pioneer in bridging the digital divide for families and children in the South Bronx, in New York City. Per Scholas now operates the largest and oldest professional IT workforce development program in New York City, a series of free, multi-week professional IT job training courses and career development and placement services. The organization also has embarked on a national expansion with new locations in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.

6 Founded in 1983, Jobs for the Future began as a regional nonprofit working with a few states to assess their workforce needs, helping employers find skilled workers, and assisting workers move into higher-wage jobs. Today, Jobs for the Future works to expand the college, career, and life prospects of low-income youth and adults in 25 states.