U.S. Department of Labor awards $65 million in grants to community colleges to expand access to training, skill development for in-demand industries, including the water industry

June 21, 2024
The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $65 million in grants for community colleges to expand access to training and skill development for in-demand industries—including water.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced on April 10, 2024, the award of $65 million in grants to 16 colleges in 14 states to expand their capacity to provide training to meet the skill development of employers and help students obtain jobs.

The funding is administered by the department’s Employment and Training Administration and is the fourth round of Strengthening Community Training Grants. It will support individual community colleges, as well as a consortia of colleges, to prepare students for jobs that pay-family sustaining wages and offer career development opportunities based on the Good Jobs Principles developed by the departments of Labor and Commerce in 2022.

Grantees will work with industry stakeholders to identify the workforce needs of multiple employers within a selected industry in the labor market area.

The funding will support a total of 41 colleges, including 16 lead institutions and an additional 25 consortia members.

These colleges will work with multiple sectors, including advanced manufacturing, healthcare, IT and infrastructure-related sectors like construction, transportation, broadband expansion and renewable energy.

Across the four rounds of grants to date, 170 colleges, including leads and consortia members, are addressing major workforce priorities for employers and workers in their 31 states and local communities.

The announced grantees will receive $55 million in funding now. Following a feasibility study, a subset of grantees will be identified to participate in an evaluation study. Those grantees will share the remaining $10 million in funding, to be awarded in Fall, 2024.

Helping an aging workforce in the water sector

Santiago Canyon College (SCC) was included in the grant program and received $1.75 million in funding for apprenticeship for students pursuing careers in the water industry.

SCC responded to a demand for skilled professionals in the water industry by applying for the grants, which they were awarded on April 10, 2024.

The Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research published a report that found that the water industry faces an increasing demand for skilled workers in the coming years. The demand for skilled workers stems from the projected retirement of one-third of its workforce, the need for a younger, more racially diverse male and female workers, and other factors.

The grant was penned by Sarah Santoyo, assistant vice chancellor of Educational Services in the Rancho Santiago Community College District’s Resource Development Department.

When applying, the proposal had to lay out a plan showing that SCC would use the $1.75 million apprenticeship grant to not only meet the increasing demand for workers, but also to answer the industry’s call for a more diverse workforce. SCC will market its apprenticeships to demographic groups that fill industry needs.

SCC currently offers associate’s degrees, certificates of proficiency and certificates of achievement in its Water and Wastewater Technology Department for programs that include wastewater and environmental sanitation, water distribution, water utility management, water equipment operation and maintenance and tertiary treatment.

Students who obtain the proper degree or certificate could find careers in water supply irrigation systems, sewage treatment facilities, heavy and civil engineering construction, waste management and state and local agencies.

A list of the grant program lead recipients

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