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12/3/2014 Webinar Transcript

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Operator: The broadcast is now starting. All attendees are in listen only mode.

Nathan Ohle: Well good afternoon and welcome to the Accelerating Industry-Led Regional Partnerships for Talent Development Program Webinar. Thank you very much for taking the time to join us today. Just a quick overview of today’s agenda before we get started; we will start out this discussion with a quick welcome and introduction. Obviously this is Nathan Ohle, the special advisors for affairs in the Economic Development Administration, joined by several others here from EDA, which we will introduce as they come on.

But we will first give a quick overview of this program webinar, given to us by our Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Mr. Jay Williams. Then we will send the baton over to Jack Cobb who’s going to go over activities, outcomes, and definitions of this Federal Funding Opportunity as well as technical details including eligibility, match, deadline, etc., and there will be a time at the end for questions. You can submit your questions right through the go-to webinar feature, and at the end of the session we will answer as many of those as we can, time permitting.

Once again, thank you for joining us, and I’d like to introduce the Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, Mr. Jay Williams.

Jay Williams: Thank you Nathan. Good afternoon, this is Jay Williams and I am pleased that you have joined us for the webinar today, as we discuss the overview for the Accelerating Industry-Led Regional Partnerships for Talent Development. I am pleased to be joined this afternoon by Bryan Borlik. Bryan is the director of EDA’s Performance and National Programs office and Jack Cobb. Jack is one of our program analysts, and shortly he will provide an additional overview and more details in respect to this announcement.

Last month, Secretary Pritzker announced that EDA is accepting proposals for a national partner to help coordinate the Accelerating Industry-led Regional Partnerships for Talent Development ­­Program. The program is being funded through EDA’s Research and Evaluation program, our program supports the development of tools, recommendations, and resources that shape Federal economic development policies and inform economic development decision-making at the local level.

Under the Federal Funding Opportunity, EDA is seeking a national partner to help develop and implement a new learning exchange program. The program will focus on building critical public-private partnerships to accelerate job skills development across the country. The availability of a skilled workforce is often cited as a primary factor considered by businesses in their investment decision process. The learning exchanges created through this initiative will help meet the skills needs of businesses by identifying, promoting, and expanding on successful industry-driven regional partnerships for talent development.

By encouraging such partnerships, the program will help build the regional pools of workers with the skills that are in demand by employers in their communities, this will lead to job creation and increased business investment.

So under the FFO, EDA will select a partner that will, again, promote cross-partnership learning across regions to build, sustain, and scale existing and new regional partnerships for talent development that support regional economic development. We’re also looking for a partner that will convene and learn from regional partnerships that have demonstrated success in addressing the talent development needs of business and industry. Also, one that will inform the long-term talent and skills development strategy for EDA and ways to increase the sustainability, scalability, and continuous improvement.

The deadline for these proposals is January 9th, 2015.

Proposals should incorporate the Job-Driven Training Checklist recently released from the White House report titled, Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. We’ll have more on that momentarily.

But let me conclude with this; ensuring that our regions have the skilled workforce they need to keep our businesses strong and our economy growing is a major priority for the Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Secretary Pritzker, who has met with nearly 1,200 CEOs and business leaders who agree that workforce skills development is an issue that must be addressed, she has made improving the linkages between training programs and employer needs, a top priority in the Department’s “Open for Business” agenda.

So again, thank you for joining us here today and for your interest in helping us to advance our workforce training and economic development goals. Jack Cobb will now provide a detailed overview of this project. It is my pleasure to turn the program over to Jack. Thank you.

Jack Cobb: Thank you Jay, and everyone for joining us today to discuss the goals EDA wants to accomplish, activities we anticipate the successful applicant to engage in, and cover some important technical details for applications.

Through this FFO, EDA seeks to accelerate the understanding of successful regional partnerships for talent development, to understand how and why industry-led regional partnerships lead to better outcomes for employers, workers, and the regional economy, and accelerated the adoption of industry-led regional partnerships for talent development.

The first thing we hope to accomplish is to convene and facilitate learning across regional partnerships that have demonstrated success in addressing the talent development needs for business and industry.

Second, we hope to identify and understand the characteristics of successful industry-led partnerships and the barriers to succeed at the local and regional level.

Finally, we hope to develop best practice reports, learning tools, and case studies, within and across regions, to build, sustain, and scale existing, as well as new regional partnerships for talent development, that support regional economic development. [Asks operator to go to the next slide]

When we select the national partner, EDA anticipates that they will assist us by developing selection criteria and also administer competitive selection processes to identify participating regions. Then they will administer a learning exchange that would include convening participant regions at a national level, to learn about best practices, successful tools, and implantation challenges as well as visit…the national partner will visit participating regional teams to facilitate development and adoption of best practices locally in the region.

Finally, the national partner would devise ways to disseminate “what works” strategies to regions not participating in learning exchange, how they can build a learning exchange programs.

A couple, I’m sure many of you saw these definitions in the FFO, a couple key terms that we hope you all will take the time to look through, are regional partnerships, industry-led, talent development, learning exchange, and region or regional. These are all contained on page six of the FFO, and I strongly encourage you to read through this in detail when you are working on applications so you can make sure we are all talking the same language. So when you say, industry-led, we are also reading the same term that you are discussing.

An important definition that we intentionally did not make, that a number of people have asked about, is how EDA defines National Partner. EDA has not really, coming into this, had any preconceived notions of who or what the National partner would be. The FFO describes the number of capacities and competencies that we feel would be necessary. These are contained in section four, subpart two, and then paragraphs one through five which, I strongly encourage everyone to read very closely.

If you flip the PowerPoint, it highlights to sort of build and manage a consortia of partners, that should be, whether it’s in house or with partner organizations, specialists who have the technical skills and abilities to provide technical assistance in difference to workforce and economic development, business development as well as managing and organizing a national level convening, the ability to run the learning exchange, develop protocol to help competition, produce and disseminate learning and research product and well as just product management on the backside of the grant.

These are all the areas we hope you’ll look through, and if you feel you are able to successfully accomplish those tasks, as well as how we evaluate them in section four, a-2, then you are….it is probably worth you compete to be the National partner.

A few technical details I wanted to run through quickly; eligibility is open to, more or less, any non-private sector entities. It could be anything from an account to a university, to foundation non-profit. Obviously given the capabilities and capacity issues that I just discussed previously, that will sort of influence….while an organization might be eligible, they might not be the best qualified. In that case we would encourage you to maybe to consider building partnerships with somebody who might be able to help increase you competitiveness.

The maximum level of funding available, EDA anticipates awarding up to $500,000, of which the applicant will have to match at least twenty percent. You may apply for less than $500,000, but you may not apply for more.

EDA anticipates the project duration to be for eighteen months from the start date, as well as on the application you can tell us when you anticipate the start date being.

The deadline is January 9th, at midnight and you must submit through grants.gov. From this point I will highlight, again, we are wrapping up, please sign up for grants.gov early.

Evaluation criteria are contained in the FFO, it’s a lengthy section so I’m not going to go through it all in detail but please read through it in detail, as well as the project description, project narrative, the very important points for you to consider and developing as well as crafting your response to the FFO.

And again, count on moving forward, is that we will have the competition closed on January 9th, at midnight.

And to wrap up, for more information, we encourage you all to check out our website, www.eda.gov, where you will find a tab dedicated to Federal Funding Opportunities. In there you will see Accelerating Industry-Led Regional Partnerships for Talent Development. That will have the FAQ page fact sheet to the FFO, a copy of this webinar will be made available, and a number of other resources.

Again on grants.gov, I strongly encourage everybody to sign up, make sure you have all your stand.gov and technical issues taken care of ahead of time. If there’s a technical issue, we do not want that to disqualify you from consideration for this competition, and you know, every competition there are always people who, you know, at 12:05 or 12:08 am are trying to submit and we are not allowed to consider those applications. And if you have technical issues, if you document them, legal concepts will have to decide but usually we are not allowed to accept those either since there is, so much time ahead. Please, please submit early, and contact grants.gov with any technical issues or problems.

N.O: Well thank you Jack and Jay today for taking the time to go over this program. We do have an opportunity here to answer some questions within the webinar, here there’s a portion under questions, submit any you have. I know that we do have one question submitted through the webinar already, and I’m going to let Bryan and Jack go at those questions as they come up.

Bryan Borlik: Thanks Nathan, this is Bryan Borlik, thanks everyone for being on the webinar today.

Question: There is a question about the purpose of today’s webinar; is this exclusively about the national partner or if we are looking for regional partners?

B.B. (Answer): Just to be clear, the webinar is an overview about the opportunities as a whole in terms of applications, what they’re for; they’re for national partner. But of course once we have a national partner selected, we’ll be……the national partner will steer the work in working with regions, so as Jack described with the learning exchanges. So there’s….this is certainly about, as it says in the title, regional partnerships, but the applications, or the Federal Funding Opportunity  we are referring to here would come from a potential national partner.

J.C. (Answer): Ah yes, as the new super-circular comes into effect, in December 26th, and so this grant will be covered under those new regulations.

N.O. (Question): The next question is can private-sector consulting firms be part of the proposed team with funding allocated to them to completing the project work?

B.B. (Answer): The answer to that would be yes; the question is how exactly would that work. So EDA is not able, by statute, to make grants to for-profit companies, for-profit firms. However, the national partner, which would be an eligible entity as Jack mentioned, as a national non-profit university, state, county and so forth, the applicant [the eligible applicant], upon successful competition, when that applicant is selected and becomes the grantee, could certainly have a sub-contract to private consultants.

And, that the applicant can certainly address in the application within the narrative and budget in terms for terms of their plan for how to engage in this work. It could certainly outline any plans using private consultants but the grant wouldn’t actually go to the private firm.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; will learning exchanges be sector based, i.e. manufacturing, health, energy or etc.?

B.B. (Answer): So the idea…..there’s nothing explicit upfront about the learning exchanges being sector-based, however, the point of the Federal Funding Opportunity soliciting applications is to get the good ideas that you have out there of how to go about this. So we would certainly be open to ideas within your proposal, but I wouldn’t say that-that’s what we had in mind at this point, but we are open to ideas.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; would an existing regional talent development program, that will commence next year, be better suited for regional partnership? Or would you encourage an application towards a national partnership?

J. C. (Answer): I think, if I understand the question correctly, if you have an existing regional partnership, I think you’d probably be better suited to apply to be a participant community. That said if you have the capacity and the ability to run this national program, obviously we encourage you to apply to be the national partner.

N.O.: That looks like the last question at this time. If anyone else has questions please submit them, we will give you a minute or two. Just so everyone knows, we have recorded this webinar, and will make both the slide and this webinar available on our website, and will be also emailing those out to those who registered for this webinar. Looks like we got a couple additional questions.

N.O. (Question): The first one is; is there an assumption or expectation about the number of regions to be competitively selected?

J.C. (Answer): We do not. A lot of the – this is sort of a new model of doing things – and so we do hope that the national partner will propose a number of these types of project details though obviously, the partnership between EDA will be a cooperative agreement, and so it is an area that we can discuss further in and finalize together. But we do hope the national partner will propose those types of details for how they will execute the learning exchanges and regional competitions.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; how many regional exchanges will be established?

J.C. (Answer): Again, the same thing, we expect the national partner will propose how to do that in their application to EDA.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; how will the roll-out of these regional planning efforts interface with planning for the implementation of the new WIOA? Is there a coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor at the Federal level? And will there be a comparable requirement for both of them?

B.B. (Answer): So we have been working closely with the Department of Labor as we developed this Federal Funding Opportunity. So yes we are working at the Federal level with the Department of Labor. Again, while I think nothing explicit in the Federal Funding Opportunity about this coordination with planning, we would certainly welcome suggestions on how to go about doing that at the regional level within the application.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; under the eligible applicants, can you talk about the reasoning for why a non-profit organization must act in cooperation with officials a political subdivision or state? Also, can a non-profit partner with an institution of higher learning be eligible?

J.C. (Answer): Ah yes, that is a statuary requirement for EDA, however, the Assistant Secretary has waived its requirement for national programs to have that ladder of support, since obviously it’s not applicable on the national level. A non-profit partner, with an institute of higher learning that would absolutely be eligible. Both non-profit and universities or colleges are eligible on their own right, and they are also eligible through a partnership together.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; is this linked to IMCP?

B.B. (Answer): Not directly linked explicitly to IMCP, however, connecting and improving the connections between workforce and communities and economic development communities and ensuring that the workforce and economic development communities both are reflecting demands of regional businesses to that extent. That’s a significant part of IMCP and this project; I think they’re linked in that way.

N.O. (Question): The next question I think has already been answered; does EDA have expectations regarding the number of national and regional meetings. So we’ll move on to the next one; must all national partners be named in the application or can we indicate that they will be announced after the award is received?

B.B. (Answer): You could but….it’s not required, your application is going to be more competitive if you are able to successfully outline the partners that you plan to be working with.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; if we apply for regional partnerships are funds available for us?

B.B. (Answer): So in terms of applying for regional partnerships, you are applying under this Federal Funding Opportunity to be a national partner. The funding would go to the national partner, and then the national partner would extend those funds into the learning exchanges to facilitate those learning exchanges. I’m not sure if that answers the question, I don’t believe we would have money directly to a regional organization but I don’t think that’s out of the question.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; does EDA expect that the grantee will use grant funds for costs associated with planning and facilitating regional meetings, such as audio/visual and meeting room costs? Does EDA expect that these meetings will be held in Federal or non-Federal spaces?

J.C. (Answer): We do expect that the grant funds will be used to pay for the expenses relating to the learning exchanges but whether or not to use Federal facilities is up to the national partner and obviously through the cooperative agreement. If it is something they want to pursue then we can try to help them but that would probably be very difficult outside of, you know, maybe something small outside of our own offices.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; are 501C6 organizations eligible to apply?

B.B. (Answer): So it needs to be a non-profit focused – you know – on educational activities, networking activities, so forth, you’ll find this….you should find this in the FFO. Specifically about 501C6, of course it depends on what the focus of the organization is. I think that may be one that we should follow up on….yeah let’s just commit to following up on….

J.C.: Yeah we will get an answer for that in the FAQ document by maybe like next week.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; typically EDA requires that for profit sub-grantees must bid – must be bid competitively. Are you suggesting that this provision will be waived in this application?

B.B. (Answer): So we do typically expect that there’s competitive bidding. If an applicant was going to do otherwise, there would need to be a good explanation, it’s not out of the question, but we do stick to the tentative of competitive bidding.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; can you expand on the learning exchanges aspect?

J.C. (Answer): Yes, if you look through the FFO there is a number of things with detail. We would expect that the learning exchange would be an opportunity for the national partner first to provide some, you know, technical assistance and guidance, help facilitate these partnerships to the local level, and then as well the national learning exchange will bring them all together and help start these conversations to distill some of the best practices across each community, have them discuss their shared advantages, what they think worked best, some of their challenges everyone has faced, and in many ways we think will help not only communities learn more about themselves and each other but help the national partner in developing the best possible best practices or “what works” guides to disseminate out to the communities who were not able to participate.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; can a for-profit partner with others be the grantee?

B.B. (Answer): That actually joined late, we talked about that earlier, that EDA by statute, cannot provide grants to for profit entities. However, they can certainly be partners or sub-contractors with the eligible grantee.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; what attributes would be considered desirable for an institution of higher education to qualify?

B.B. (Answer): I would think – that’s a great question – I would think that what would be most desirable is a very good network or connections between that university and the economic development and workforce within that region, the university is actively engaged with the communities, with the workforce and economic development communities and facilitate that they are working together.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; can a partnership be characterized as co-applicants?

J.C. (Answer): Yes we will accept co-applicants, and there are information – there is information – in the FFO about specific paperwork, different parties will have to fill out.

N.O. (Question): The next question is; if a consultant is identified in the grant application, are they guaranteed work if the proposed team is selected? Or would the requested work have to go through an RFP process?

B.B. (Answer): So they wouldn’t be guaranteed the proposal to receive the applicant is just that; it’s a proposal, and while the grant being made is certainly a contract there can always be changes in the scope of work, in the partnerships and so forth. So I would not say that there’s a guarantee, but we’d be looking to our national partner to ensure that we have, to know that they have the best partnerships have been placed. And there probably needs to be some flexibility in order to assure the best partnerships are consistently in place, I wouldn’t say guaranteed.

N.O.: Well that looks like that’s the last question that we have. As I’ve said before we did record this webinar and we will be sending that out to you as well as making it available on our website. Once again if you have any questions, there is an FAQ that is out on the website for your accessibility. But thank you again to Assistant Secretary Jay Williams, to Jack Cobb and Bryan Borlik, and for all of you for spending time with us today. Ah, looks like we did get one last question here that we will take before we finish up and that is; can funding for an existing program be considered as part of the national funding requirements?

B.B. (Answer): Ah, I think it kind of depends; we would have to have more detail on what is meant by funding for an existing program. Essentially the – any to be considered match – it has to go to the purpose, the specific purpose of what the Federal funds are being spent for – being spent on, so that’s….we just a little more detail there to answer that well I think.

N.O: Alright, well thank you very much for your time today, we appreciate you participating and look forward to some great applications.