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Aug 29 -- The Chief Evaluation Office of the U.S. Department of Labor invites comments to OMB by September 28, 2022 regarding the  Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio evaluation contract.

The Chief Evaluation Office of the U.S. Department of Labor commissioned the high priority Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio evaluation contract to build evidence on apprenticeship, including apprenticeship models, practices, and partnership strategies in high-growth occupations and industries. DOL's initiatives to expand access to apprenticeship opportunities support the Presidential Executive Order “Expanding Apprenticeships in America.” The portfolio of initiatives addressed by the evaluation includes the Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-Based Strategies grants, Closing the Skills Gap grants, Youth Apprenticeship Readiness grants, and other DOL investments. The Urban Institute and its partners Mathematica Policy Research and Capital Research Corporation were contracted to conduct the study of these efforts.
 
This package requests clearance for nine data collection instruments for three different studies under the aforementioned Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio evaluation: 1) an implementation evaluation of the Scaling Apprenticeship and Closing the Skills Gap grants programs to develop typologies of apprenticeship models and practices, identify perceived promising strategies across the portfolio, and to better understand the implementation of models to help interpret impact evaluation findings; 2) an assessment of registered apprenticeship state systems and partnerships to provide important information on their capacity to develop, design, modify, implement, sustain, expand/scale up, and evaluate apprenticeship strategies and models; and 3) an implementation evaluation of the Youth Apprenticeship Readiness grant program to understand service delivery design and implementation, and perceived challenges and promising practices.
 
The Department of Labor and industry have invested billions of dollars over the past decade to encourage, develop and expand industry-driven apprenticeship training nationwide. Much of the federal investment is through program grants and technical assistance. The breadth of apprenticeship investments has resulted in a diverse sectoral, geographic, and institutional mix of apprenticeship programs and projects. This project will build the evidence base on apprenticeship in three ways: careful review of existing evidence and information; rigorous implementation study to specify apprenticeship typologies and models to include a range of work-based training; and development of rigorous impact evaluation design options to analyze impacts of various models and strategies.

The Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-Based Strategies grants ($183.8 million) and the Closing the Skills Gap grants ($100 million) are the two largest recent federal apprenticeship investments and a primary focus of the proposed project. The Scaling Apprenticeship grant awards, announced in June 2019, focus on accelerating expansion of apprenticeships to more sectors with high demand for skilled workers, namely occupations and industries applying for H-1B worker visas. Closing the Skills Gap awards, announced in fall of 2019, are intended to promote apprenticeship as a method for closing the gap between employer skill demands and the skills of the workforce. The source of funding for both grant programs is fee revenue from Section 414(c) of the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998, and a substantial portion of grant funds are required to be spent on training activities. In addition, the Youth Apprenticeship Readiness grants ($42.3 million) were awarded in June 2020.  

Although the evidence base on apprenticeship in the U.S. is growing, there are still several key knowledge gaps that are ripe for rigorous evaluations and evidence-building. Policymakers, researchers, evaluators, and practitioners are generally persuaded that apprenticeship has positive net benefits, but the study need more evidence on what models work in specific occupational contexts, for particular subgroups of apprentices. Implementation evaluations are needed to better understand what apprenticeship models and components are most effective for apprentices in various industries and occupations. In addition, the implementation evaluation of the Scaling Apprenticeship and Closing the Skills Gap grants complements and will inform the impact evaluation of these grants that the study team is simultaneously conducting for DOL under the same contract.  
 
The Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio evaluation will address the following research questions, organized by study:

-- Scaling Apprenticeship and Closing the Skills Gap Grants Implementation Evaluation

What apprenticeship components, models, partnerships, and strategies have the Scaling Apprenticeship and Closing the Skills Gap grantees designed and/or expanded?  
How have the grantees implemented the components, models, partnerships, and strategies?
What components, models, partnerships, and strategies appear promising for supporting positive outcomes for apprentices, businesses, and systems?  

-- State System Capacity Assessment

What is the capacity and structure of state systems to coordinate the design and implementation of Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) (including pre-apprenticeship)?  
How do national and local initiatives support or hinder the capacity of state systems to expand RAPs?
What partnerships do states engage in to support expansion of RAPs? What partnerships seem successful in supporting expansion of RAPs? What are the advantages and challenges in developing and maintaining these partnerships?
How did states change or adapt their RAP models, strategies, and practices during the COVID-19 crisis? What were the perceived successes and challenges states experienced during this time?  
What perceived promising strategies are states using to recruit and place individuals into RAPs?  
How do states measure the success of RAPs? What outputs and outcomes for apprentices, employers, and other partners are important?
How do states engage employers and industry to expand RAPs? What are the engagement strategies that show promise for expanding RAPs?
What data infrastructure do states have for RAPs? How are data being used for continuous improvement, cost analysis, or evaluating programs for effectiveness?  
What strategies are states developing to ensure the sustainability of the RAPs, especially as federal grant funding sunsets? What sustainability plans seem most likely to support long-term operations?  

-- Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Grant Evaluation

How are youth apprenticeship programs designed and implemented by Youth Apprenticeship Readiness grantees?
What specific activities/strategies are sites using to assist youth in learning about, searching for, and securing apprenticeships?
What are the patterns of placement in apprenticeship opportunities (including pre-apprenticeship), and related successes and challenges?
What types of industries are participating in youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship?  
What types of financial incentives, if any, are being used?  
How do programs plan for long-term operations with and without future federal funding? What are lessons learned that could inform sustainability?  

The evidence generated by the evaluations will be relevant not only to the sites and their partners participating in the DOL initiatives, but to DOL policymakers and administrators assessing current and future apprenticeship initiatives, and to employers, training institutions and workforce development partners seeking knowledge and evidence about effective models, practices, partnerships and strategies to improve and scale their apprenticeship systems.
 
DOL Apprenticeship Grant Programs: https://www.apprenticeship.gov/investments-tax-credits-and-tuition-support/active-grants-and-contracts
Apprenticeship Evidence-Building Portfolio Evaluation submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202208-1290-001 Click IC List for survey instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FR notice inviting comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-18509
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments to OMB, the AEA Committee on Economic Statistics offers "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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