The U.S. Department of Labor is making funds available via the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) initiative to implement innovative approaches to provide enhanced training and support activities to dislocated workers, new entrants in the workforce, incumbent workers, and individuals affected by substance use disorder returning to work. Successful awards will support workforce development activities that prepare eligible participants for good jobs in high-demand occupations aligned with a state, regional, or community economic development strategy. Communities across Appalachia, especially those underserved by other resources, are encouraged to apply. The funding announcement can be found on the Grants.gov website.
The WORC Initiative is designed to facilitate the alignment of workforce development efforts with existing economic development strategies in rural communities hard hit by economic transition and recovering slowly. The purpose of this program is to demonstrate the alignment of regionally driven, comprehensive approaches to addressing economic distress and the necessary workforce development activities to ensure a workforce capable of succeeding in current and future job opportunities. Successful long-term economic growth strategies build upon bottom-up, community-led plans that promote economic resilience and maximize regional strengths. The WORC Initiative grants take a long-term view toward assisting eligible communities in diversifying their economies by investing in local strategies developed by regional partners. This long-term view also acknowledges the impact of the opioid crisis and the significant challenges it presents to a community’s workforce. To address these challenges, ETA encourages applicants to include within their applications strategies to address the employment and training needs of individuals affected by substance use disorder in their communities.
As mentioned, the goal of this grant opportunity is to create economic prosperity and gainful employment opportunities for eligible residents in impacted ARC and DRA regions, enabling them to remain and thrive in these communities. Successful applicants must demonstrate coordinated workforce strategies in the ARC and DRA regions and help the regions achieve long-term economic success. Successful applications will propose projects including all of the following Objectives:
Objective 1: Implement innovative, sustainable service delivery strategies to address economic and workforce-related impacts within each of the regions;
Objective 2: Provide or facilitate the provision of new or enhanced training, job placement and support activities to the following eligible participants: dislocated workers (including displaced homemakers), new entrants in the workforce, and incumbent workers (including eligible individuals within those cohorts that may be affected by substance use disorder [e.g., opioids, stimulants, cocaine, and other substances]) who reside in ARC and DRA regions;
Objective 3: Align and integrate workforce development activities with existing state, regional, or community economic development strategies;
Objective 4: Develop and expand partnerships, including industry partnerships that build and sustain capacity, maximize available resources, and establish community-based approaches for addressing workforce challenges and industry needs in the ARC and DRA regions; and
Objective 5: Provide or facilitate delivery of support services to assist employers and industry in meeting workforce challenges and industry needs in the ARC and DRA regions.
Successful applicants will demonstrate clear strategies to provide needed career, training, and support services to eligible individuals in counties, parishes, and/or areas currently underserved by other resources, so they may secure good jobs in stable, high-demand occupations. Eligible individuals served under this grant include dislocated workers, new entrants to the workforce, and incumbent workers. Applicants are encouraged to incorporate strategies that support eligible individuals impacted by substance use disorder; ETA anticipates at least $5 million will go to grants that include support for individuals impacted by substance use disorder.
For a list of Pre-Application Webinars, click HERE.