Starting Out Strong: Using Your Grant Planning Period
Posted 2/19/2019 3:34 PM by Lisa Reddy
Built into the DOL YouthBuild grant period of performance is a four–month planning period to support hiring activities, solidifying partnerships, and program launch activities. Using this period in accordance with the timeline of critical activities submitted with the grant proposal is crucial to program success. Revisit your grant application’s program narrative, which becomes the grant Statement of Work (SOW), as a guide in planning and program design.
Below, we cover some of the key areas that require attention during the planning period.
Satisfying Conditions of Award
All grantees are provided Conditions of Award (COAs) with their grant award package. The most common COAs fall into several specific categories:
- Work sites - some of the work site issues grantees have experienced include: insufficient descriptions of the participants’ planned work site training activities, multiple work sites included on the same form, a lack of documentation of ownership/access, and lack of documentation of financial resources supporting the construction activities. Work sites that have been flagged in conditions of award have not been approved and grantees may not use these work sites until the appropriate forms are submitted and approved by the DOL grant office. The approved work site would then be added to the grant documents.
- Construction Plus (C+) - many 2018 grantees have COAs related to their proposed C+ industries. In particular, grantees may not be approved for construction plus industries because: 1) they failed to indicate that grant or matching funds were being expended on the C+ industry, 2) the identified credentials resulting from the training were not industry-recognized or were not sufficiently named, 3) the grantee did not provide clear identification of the committed work experience partners, 4) the grantee identified construction-related fields as their C+ industry (weatherization, solar paneling), or 5) the grantee did not provide the required evidence that the industry was in-demand in the local area. Grantees with C+ COAs must resolve these conditions within the first 30 days of the grant award. If a grantee feels the condition rationale is incorrect, they have the opportunity to provide further documentation to support approval of the C+ industry. If not, they must submit a revised SOW, budget and match narrative (if required) to remove the non-qualifying C+ industry.
- Match - the YouthBuild grants require a match of 25% of the total grant award. Match is defined as non-federal resources used toward grant objectives that are new commitments. Common hurdles with match have been the over-valuing of match, missing letters of commitment, a lack of information on the origin of funds, the use of pass-through Federal funds, and the identification of match for non-allowable activities. Make sure to look at the Funding Opportunity Announcement for a good description of how to value match. For more information on match and how to avoid pitfalls that can require repayment of grant funds during closeout, check out this webinar recording, YouthBuild Match Requirements and Review of Changes in the 9130 Financial Reporting Form.
- Staffing and target service areas - the YouthBuild program requires several core staff positions: Project Director, Case Manager, and Job Developer/Placement Specialist. It is required that these positions be three separate staff, not a role split amongst one person. Grantees can leverage partnerships, such as with the One-Stop system, to satisfy these roles but must be clear in describing how this partnership will meet the job requirements and this must be specified in the partnership MOU. Grantees are also required to identify the target service area to be served using zip codes, as well as clearly indicating the physical presence in each area if the grantee is proposing to serve two distinct service areas.
Having unresolved COAs can result in negative impacts for your grant, limiting the amount of grant funding accessible, and possibly including disallowed costs and money owed back to the federal government. It is in the grantee’s best interest to focus on resolving these as a first step in grant planning. Your FPO is available to answer any questions you might have with any COAs.
A key consideration during the planning period is hiring all needed program staff, such as construction trainer(s) and academic instructor(s). To best plan for staffing needs, the grantee must have a grasp of the YouthBuild model, goals, and program culture. Building an integrated program requires visioning, creating mutually beneficial partnerships, team and community building, and component integration. Make sure to develop a plan for recruitment of key staff, onboarding, and needed professional development. Training staff on DOL performance measures is essential to integration. Here are some resources to help you think through your staffing plan:
Everything Counts: Organizing Staff and Students to Create a Strong Program Culture
Staffing Your Education Component
DOL YouthBuild Staffing for Placement Toolkit
During the planning process, grantees must make initial contact with the Local Workforce Development Board (LWDB) to create or solidify a partnership MOU. This MOU must include the Infrastructure Funding Agreement (IFA), so you may need to negotiate with the LWDB regarding these costs, and then revisit the budget to make any required budget modifications to allow for any infrastructure or service funding costs that are required. For guidance, download this Sample MOU/Infrastructure Costs Toolkit. It’s important to consider how you can present your program as a value-add to your One-Stop partner to ensure a comprehensive and effective partnership agreement. Check out the Benefits of Participating in an Integrated American Job Center Network, which is available on the ION Community of Practice, to help you do that. A Guide to Effective DOL YouthBuild and American Job Center Partnerships is also a must-read for help building and negotiating partnerships with LWDBs that manage American Job Centers.
Recruitment and Mental Toughness
Having a thorough understanding of participant eligibility is integral to designing a recruitment strategy that will provide outreach to the right audience of potential participants. Pay attention to enrollment goals and adjust plans along the way to ensure you reach your goal while remaining compliant. Consider: Do you have a recruitment plan, as well as a calendar for Mental Toughness and enrollment of cohorts? Will you be using rolling admissions? This blog post, Rethinking Recruitment: Partnerships and Strategies, offers concrete steps and resources to assist in recruitment planning.
Mental toughness is not a requirement of the YouthBuild program, but it is a commonly-used practice. TEGL 14-09: Mental Toughness/Orientation Allowable Costs in a YouthBuild Program provides guidance to grantees regarding what costs are allowable during the mental toughness phase and also provides recommendations on mental toughness duration.
Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), YouthBuild programs are considered pre-apprenticeship models, with a goal of connecting youth participants to careers and continuing training by preparing them for future apprenticeships. Grantees should structure the DOL YouthBuild program using the Construction Plus Pre-apprenticeship Framework. There are five components of this framework:
- Training and curriculum that aligns with the skill needs of employers in the selected in-demand industry(ies);
- Hands-on, meaningful learning activities that are connected to education and training activities;
- Access to educational and career counseling and other supportive services;
- Opportunities to attain at least one industry-recognized credential; and
- Partnership with one or more apprenticeship program that assists with placement.
Here are some resources to help you think through this piece:
TEN 13-12: Defining a Quality Pre-Apprenticeship Program and Related Tools and Resources
Construction Plus Framework for a Quality Pre-Apprenticeship Experience
Management Information System/Data Management
Performance outcome data is one way that grants demonstrate accountability to DOL. It is important to understand both the WIOA performance reporting process and the performance indicators to successfully plan program design and participant timelines.
Grantees must be trained to use the YouthBuild case management and performance reporting system. YouthBuild has an MIS Help Desk that is available to offer ongoing training and comprehensive data reviews for individual programs. During these reviews, the team will examine your program’s reports, review measures, and investigate errors or problem areas. The MIS Help Desk can also provide web-based interactive individual and group trainings in between in-person training events.
Here are some resources and materials that have been developed to support this area of work:
WIOA Performance Indicators Summer e-Learning Series
DOL YouthBuild WIOA Performance Indicators
Quarterly Narrative Performance Report template
Planning Period Resources
Additional resources that are beneficial to review during the planning period include:
- Grantee Planning Period: Guidance and Best Practices TA Toolkit – this toolkit is a guide to help you effectively use your four-month planning period, and includes a month-by-month timeline for planning activities during your planning period.
- Resources for New DOL YouthBuild Grantees - These resources will provide guidance and best practices to help you think through your grant planning period and execute the steps needed to build a successful YouthBuild program.
- Toolbox for Success: Program Design and WIOA Resource Spotlights– this toolbox contains links to resources and examples of best practices to strengthen your program and participant success, particularly related to program planning, program management, and performance outcomes.