Secretary DeVos Announces Student-Centered Grant Awards to Spur Worker Development, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth During Coronavirus Recovery

Secretary DeVos Announces Student-Centered Grant Awards to Spur Worker Development, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth During Coronavirus Recovery

September 25, 2020

HAMPTON, Va. — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today more than $126 million in new grant funding will be awarded to eight states to provide students the opportunity to develop new skills in high demand areas. The recipients will leverage the expertise and facilities available on college campuses to spur entrepreneurship and foster business development and innovation as America begins to recover from COVID-19-related disruptions to education. This funding was made available through the Education Stabilization Fund of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump. Awardees include Alabama, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Hampton University in partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia.

"America's workers and entrepreneurs have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, and this administration is committed to reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit and helping Americans reenter the workforce as the economy recovers," said Secretary DeVos. "We created this grant competition because we saw the clear need to support lifelong learners who needed a boost to get back on their feet, and I was delighted to see so many states come forward with innovative initiatives and partnerships. By breaking down barriers between education and industry and supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses, we can help workers thrive and get America's economic engine running at full speed again."

The grant awards will support states' efforts to assist in the development of new education and training opportunities; encourage the engagement of employers and industry sectors in providing high-quality education and training opportunities to improve workforce preparation, and enable innovators in local communities to benefit from access to faculty experts, state-of-the-art equipment, and shared facilities through the development or growth of small business incubators located at, or affiliated with, colleges and universities.

Congress set aside 1% of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for discretionary grants to fulfill unmet needs related to burdens caused by the pandemic. The Department of Education announced the Reimagine Workforce Preparation (RWP) grant competition in late spring 2020, inviting any state to apply. Specifically, it called for projects that:

  1. Expand educational opportunities through short-term, career pathways or sector-based education and training programs (absolute priority 1); or
  2. Support college sustainability and local entrepreneurship through small business incubators (absolute priority 2).

State Applicant Name Award Amount Absolute Priority
Alabama Alabama Department of Commerce $17,827,178.11  1
Arkansas Arkansas Division of Workforce Services $13,579,455.83  1
California California Department of Employment Development $14,440,118.56  1
Hawaii University of Hawaii $13,370,383.58  1
Michigan Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity $17,827,178.11  1
Nevada Governor's Office of Workforce Innovation $13,818,298.92  1
New York New York State Department of Labor $18,067,845.02  1
Virginia Hampton University $17,735,349.43  2
Total $126,665,807.56  

Key highlights from some of the awardees include:

Alabama – Through the Alabama Department of Commerce, the state plans to launch the Alabama Workforce Stabilization Program (AWSP) to implement and scale short-term educational and training programs designed to help low-income, skills-deficient Alabamians who have been displaced by COVID-19 as they transition into new fields. Their plan includes a two-tier approach with Level One focused on disconnected or dislocated workers with basic skills deficiencies and Level Two serving incumbent workers or dislocated workers who are prepared for direct employment.

Hawaii – Through the University of Hawaii, the state plans to offer short-term education training opportunities through distance education; create a statewide micro-credentials, badging, and licensing system that is public and interoperable; expand Registered Apprenticeship Programs and Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs; and, develop articulated career pathways with college credit options for short-term education and apprenticeships.

Michigan – The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity - Workforce Development (LEO-WD) will launch the Michigan Learning & Education Advancement Program (MiLEAP) with the goal of serving 5,000 job seekers looking to earn credentials, gain skills for employment, return to work, and advance in a career pathway. MiLEAP will provide short- and mid-term customized education and training resulting in an industry credential through distance learning and hybrid modalities. The training will be employer-led, competency-based and coupled with work-based learning opportunities.

Nevada – Through the Governor's Office of Workforce Innovation, Nevada is launching Project SANDI: Supporting and Advancing Nevada's Dislocated Individuals with the goal of modernizing Nevada's workforce system and expanding remote access to accelerated training for in-demand occupations. Their plan includes the development and deployment of a "Skills Decoder" that translates work experience into credentials, certificates, and degree programs, eventually automating the process for workforce systems and institutions of higher education. They also plan to invest in digital platforms (e.g. virtual and augmented reality) to remotely offer training for in-demand occupations. 

New York – The New York State Department of Labor intends to create, develop, implement, and take to scale short-term educational programs and training courses or programs, and/or career pathways programs, including those focused on facilitating and strengthening entrepreneurship and small business ownership. New York's approach will consist of four distinct, yet intertwining elements that will run concurrently to provide: (1) training in the field of digital transformation and exponential technologiesfor NYC residents; (2) scaling and increased implementation of statewide community college training initiatives; (3) boot camps and workshops for new and established entrepreneurs; and (4) solicitations, including RFAs, to fund New York State businesses and other training providers in identifying and developing remote trainings, and/or transitioning trainings which already exist to remote, didactic formats.  

Virginia – Through Hampton University (HU), the Virginia Board of Workforce Development will establish the Virginia Workforce Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (VWIEC), a statewide small business incubator project. Centering its operations on the HU campus and located within a designated Opportunity Zone, the VWIEC will expand the capability and capacity of Virginia's current and aspiring entrepreneurs to aid with economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although headquartered in Hampton, it will serve clientele from across the state who have been unemployed, displaced, or have had their jobs have become obsolete by COVID-19.

Applications were evaluated by a panel of independent peer reviewers, and the highest-scoring applications received funding. Given the nature of the national emergency, states with the highest coronavirus burden were prioritized.

This grant competition is the latest in the Trump Administration's efforts to rethink higher education and support lifelong learning. Thanks to achieving historic consensus among higher education leaders, the Department has published several new regulations over the last year that will improve access to higher education for students, lower the cost, reduce regulatory burden for schools, and protect taxpayers who subsidize higher education.

Additionally, the Department announced $180 million in awards through the Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant Program to support states' efforts to create new, innovative ways for students to continue learning in ways that meet their needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department continues to update www.ed.gov/coronavirus with information for students, parents, educators and local leaders about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For additional resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about COVID-19, please visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.