The Obama administration has taken another step toward making good on its promise to help better prepare students entering the workforce, as well as ensuring that the U.S workforce can compete globally, by announcing $100 million dollars to fund Youth CareerConnect Grants.
This competitive grant—using money from the H1-B visa program—offers awards of between $2-$7 million for 25-40 education agencies, public or non-profit local workforce entities, or non-profits with education reform experience involved in individual or multi-site projects.
It is reassuring that the commitments made are being honored by lawmakers, and KRA Corporation applauds the continued investment in the upcoming generation of young workers, as well as providing a viable platform for forward-thinking solutions to workforce development.
As an organization that pioneered the YES (Youth Employability & Success) Program as part of its comprehensive WIA Youth Services operations, KRA Corporation advocates for any program that will provide relevant education, training, and work-readiness programs for the at-risk youth population benefitting the individual, businesses, and overall economic growth.
An increasing number of high school students lack exposure to meaningful links between secondary and postsecondary education or available career paths. This new initiative is modeled after career and technical education programs (like P-TECH) whose programs are operated in collaboration with corporations, folding in certifications (in the form of Associates Degrees) with basic requirements for entry-level employment within the sponsoring corporation.
According to the DOLETA fact sheet, this program is designed to increase the flow of prepared workers into the system through five combined principles: Integrated Academic and Career-Focused Learning, Work-Based Learning and Exposure to the World of Work, Robust Employer Engagement, Individualized Career and Academic Counseling and Integration of Post-secondary Education and Training.
According to Politico, the program has received a frosty reception from some education groups who have concerns about the limiting scope that the competitive nature of the granting process will have on schools. The inaccessibility by some rural schools that do not have grant writers nor some of the basic criteria for eligibility due to location and size was another sticking point.
It has also drawn criticism from inside the government for bypassing support from associated lawmakers, and its seemingly direct competition with the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program (which is up for reauthorization), thereby adding a different and potentially confusing level to the system.
KRA Corporation understands that bringing projects to the scale of magnitude that this program requires to be deemed successful is a difficult proposition. However, we remain optimistic that these grants could represent a necessary step toward youth employment and global competitiveness, as well as a boost for the economy in the future.