Tag Archives: Jobs

DOL’s “America’s Promise Job Driven Grant Program” Shows The Transition from Green Jobs to H-1B Jobs

I’m writing a Department of Labor (DOL) America’s Promise Job Driven Grant Program proposal this weekend. There’s nothing remarkable about that, except that a close reading of the RFP reveals that the DOL has completely abandoned their interest in “green jobs” (this is somewhat odd, given that the DOL’s fascination with green jobs happened before solar panels, for example, really took off, and before commercial home electricity storage got going). The new job training kids on the block are “H-1B industries and occupations.”

Those of you outside of the tech industry may be wondering what that means. “H-1B” refers to a type of visa that allows non-US residents to enter the US temporarily to work in occupations for which there are supposedly not enough qualified American workers. While H-1B visas cover a plentitude of occupations, for purposes of this post, we’ll just think about them as tech-related jobs like engineers, coders, scientists, Flux Capacitor mechanics, and so on.

Almost every DOL RFP these days is full of H-1B references, and so are other federal proposals related to job training. But if we take a trip in Doc Brown’s souped up DeLorean back to 2009, we’d encounter a very different job training landscape.

For those of you who been on Tatooine or playing Pokemon Go for the last few years, 2009 was the height of the Great Recession and the start of the Stimulus Bill, or, as we called it, the Grant Writers Full Employment Act. Most of this $900 million of orgasmic Federal spending was directed at job training and workforce development in some way. Virtually every Federal job training RFP from 2008 to 2011 required training in green jobs. The problem was that no one, including us, actually knew what a green job was, so we just made it up. This worked, since the Federal program officers also weren’t sure what constituted a green job. We wrote a lot about weatherization, “smart windows,” and energy efficiency.

Most people would agree that Elon Musk’s Gigafactory supports electric vehicles and therefore the engineers and robot technicians housed there work in green jobs. Still, the factory will need janitors and cafeteria workers, and they might actually outnumber the engineers. Are the janitors and cafeteria workers green workers? While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) eventually came up with a green job definition, the definition was so vague as to be meaningless—perfect for grant writers.

Still, this no longer matters much, because Congress and Federal bureaucrats are a fickle bunch and green jobs have mostly disappeared from RFPs. Instead, we’re on to H1-B occupations. Fortunately for grant writers, other than requiring at least a baccalaureate, the US Citizen and Immigration Services’ H-1B jobs definition isn’t any more specific that the BLS definition of green jobs.

In DOL job training grant land, however, one doesn’t actually train people to qualify as H-1B workers, since there isn’t enough time or money for trainees to get a four-year degree. Plus, four-year engineering degrees have steep dropout curves and are tough to get. Most of those targeted by DOL programs don’t have the prerequisites for those kinds of degrees. Instead, DOL-funded training is for precursor jobs requiring a certificate or credential of some sort that might lead the person to completing a four-year degree and actually working in a H-1B job—some day.

The job training RFPs these days, and the workforce development proposals we write, have no more to to with H-1B jobs than, for example, the funded $1 million Department of Energy grant to train “weatherization specialists” we wrote in 2009 had to do with green jobs. These RFPs are primarily walkin’ around money for job training providers.

Links: Consistently good news on energy, trains, LAUSD, jeans, colleges, “polyvictimization,” employers, and more!

* “Clean-Energy Jobs Surpass Oil Drilling for First Time in U.S;” this is important for anyone running a job training or workforce development program.

* “One Regulation Is Painless. A Million of Them Hurt.” For us, attempting to deal with business regulations in California and the State of New York have been horrific time sucks that almost no one, except for business owners, notices.

* “Employers Struggle to Find Workers Who Can Pass a Drug Test.” Perhaps the solution is overly radical, but employers could judge employees by their work, rather than their recreational hobbies? I’ve never been drug tested on the job. Seliger + Associates is a drug-test-free workplace, but not a free-drug workplace.

* The billionaire-backed plans to harness fusion; more good news.

* “Fewer U.S. teens are giving birth, CDC finds;” have American teens forgotten how to party?

* Amtrak turns 45 today. Here’s why American passenger trains are so bad.

* “Camille Paglia: The Modern Campus Has Declared War on Free Speech.”

* Why Used Electric Car Batteries Could Be Crucial To A Clean Energy Future.

* “After LAUSD iPad program failure, Apple’s help spurs ‘success’ in other schools.” This should not surprise those of you who read us on “Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology” by Kentaro Toyama.

* “How the Jeans Capital of the World Moved from Texas to China.” It is possible to buy jeans made in the U.S., Canada, or Japan, but they tend to be very expensive (e.g. Naked and Famous).

* “Safe from ‘safe spaces:’ On the rare good sense of a college administrator” has an innocuous title but is a magnificent piece.

* How Battery-Powered Rides Could Transform Your Commute.

* “Squatters See a New Frontier in the Empty Homes of Las Vegas,” a useful piece for anyone working in the Sun Belt.

* My favorite recent weird grant program name: “A Pathway to Justice, Healing and Hope: Addressing Polyvictimization in a Family Justice Center Setting Demonstration Initiative.” Polyvictimization? Is that like being polyamorous, but less fun?

* “Why U.S. Infrastructure Costs So Much.” Those costs “are among the world’s highest.”

* “Get Out of Jail, Now Pay Up: Your Fines Are Waiting: Eliminating monetary penalties that accompany conviction may help ex-convicts get on their feet.” Sample: “The story of my research—the story that must be told—is that our 21st century criminal justice system stains people’s lives forever.”

* “The American economy’s big problem: we don’t have enough companies like Tesla.” There are returns to workers and consumers when small companies become large ones; one problem Europe has is that going from startup to huge is very hard. Europe has lots of tiny companies and a bunch of behemoths, but very few that go from the one to the other.

* “Paying cash for kids not to kill.”

* “Forty Percent of the Buildings in Manhattan Could Not Be Built Today,” which helps explain why NYC, like LA, Seattle, and many other places are so expensive: It’s illegal to build the housing that people want to live in.

* “Sorry, We Don’t Take Obamacare,” which ought not be a surprise to anyone who knows the healthcare system—and it really won’t be a surprise to FQHCs.

* Pay Attention To Libertarian Gary Johnson; He’s Pulling 10 Percent vs. Trump And Clinton.

* “Free Preschool = Free Daycare;” see also our post “Trying to Give Away Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) or Early Head Start (EHS),” which concerns New York City’s efforts. We’ve written a bunch of funded UPKs!

* “The Perils of Writing a Mildly Provocative Email at Yale,” another chapter in campus madness.

* New York’s Incredible Subway. Seattle is actively building subways. Denver is also building light rail (with surprising speed). It’s almost like other metros are learning from New York’s successes and Los Angeles’s mistakes.

* “If the atomic bomb had not been used,” one of the most fascinating pieces you’ll read if you’re familiar with the topic; call this a revision to revisionist history.

* Why suburbia sucks.

Links: Deadlines, funny grant programs, the life of the mind, batteries, solar, sex ed, and more!

* What happened when the NSF eliminated grant deadlines: Applications fell enormously. Is this good or bad?

* A favorite weird Federal Register announcement: “Notice of Intent (NOI) to Issue Funding Opportunity Announcement.” So… that’s a notice about a future notice. I didn’t see if there was a notice about a notice about a notice, but, if I see one, you’ll read about it here.

* “Straight From High School to a Career;” this ought to not be controversial. We’ve written about the issue before. I in particular am aware of the pitfalls of college-for-all, having taught college to extremely uninterested, confused students who would’ve been better served by direct skills training than college.

* “How ‘Safe Spaces’ Stifle Ideas.” Seems obvious, but…

* “How Saudi Arabia captured Washington: America’s foreign policy establishment has aligned itself with an ultra-conservative dictatorship that often acts counter to US values and interests. Why?” It’s amazing that this story doesn’t get more press.

* New lithium battery ditches solvents, reaches supercapacitor rates.

* “Nixon official: real reason for the drug war was to criminalize black people and hippies.” It worked. Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent ought to be mandatory reading for American citizens.

* “When Did Porn Become Sex Ed? Conversations between adults and teenagers about what happens after “yes” remain rare.” See our post “What to do When Research Indicates Your Approach is Unlikely to Succeed: Part I of a Case Study on the Community-Based Abstinence Education Program RFP.”

* “The Life Biz: How to succeed at work and at home.”

* Welcome to the next housing crisis: chronic undersupply of homes for a growing country. A point I’ve made before but that is worth making again. Housing touches so many other issues: innovation, education, “income inequality,” opportunity.

* “Millennials like socialism — until they get jobs.” Sometimes my students express shock and horror that anyone, anywhere would vote for Republicans. When they do, I sometimes ask, “How much did you pay in taxes last year?” They look at me, confused, and then I say something like, “When you can answer that question immediately, you’ll know one reason. Which isn’t an endorsement of the party as a whole or of specific Republican politicians, but it’s a piece of the puzzle that may offer a partial answer.”

* “When will rooftop solar be cheaper than the grid?” In some places, it already is. Also: “Cheap Solar Power,” which is a re-think from a former solar skeptic. If you’re doing job training you should be thinking about “solar installer” as a potential career path, especially in the sun belt.

* “Rezoning in the age of hyper-gentrification.” See also my piece, “Do millennials have a future in Seattle? Do millennials have a future in any superstar cities?

* “The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life: Considering the constant fatalities, rampant pollution, and exorbitant costs of ownership, there is no better word to characterize the car’s dominance than insane.” The most important piece you won’t read today. I just got back from L.A. and L.A. feels insane: a supermassive city built for cars, not humans.

* “The Sins of the Chicago Police Laid Bare,” a horrific story:

Mayor Emanuel created the task force in December, not long after the city released a police video showing a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, executing a black teenager named Laquan McDonald on a street on the South Side of Chicago. The video contradicted a police news release saying that the young man was killed because he had been menacing the officer. Officer Van Dyke was not charged with murder until November, more than a year after the killing. There is no reason to believe that the officer would ever have been charged had a judge not ordered the city to make the video public.

* “Why There’s Hope for the Middle Class (With Help From China).”

* “The Senate’s criminal justice reform repeats one of the worst mistakes of the war on drugs;” depressing: “The Senate’s bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, spearheaded by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), suggests at least some federal lawmakers have truly learned nothing from the failures of the war on drugs.”

* How cheap does solar power need to get before it takes over the world?

* The Wirecutter tests the (many) online mattress companies and likes Leesa best.

* More than 1,000 world leaders say the obvious: the drug “war” has been a disaster.

* “When Bitcoin Grows Up,” which also covers what money is, what it might be, and the future of money.

* “What the ‘Freedom’ of a Car Means to Me in a City Where Everyone Drives: Compared to the subway I was used to, driving in Seattle was freeing—but it was also lonely.”

* Obvious, but: National HPV vaccination program would provide big benefits. FQHCs should make sure they’re doing everything they can to ensure vaccination.

* AT&T offering $5 internet to low-income families. The devil may be in the details here, but the story goes nicely with an “Obamaphone.”

A shortage of jobs for qualified grant writers? Not that we’ve seen!

Mark Peters and David Wessel’s “More Men in Prime Working Ages Don’t Have Jobs: Technology and Globalization Transform Employment Amid Slow Economic Recovery” is an article you’ve already read 10,000 times, and the intro, as usual, is a dubious vignette:

Mark Riley was 53 years old when he lost a job as a grant writer for an Arkansas community college. “I was stunned,” he said. “It happened on my daughter’s 11th birthday.” His boss blamed state budget cuts.

(Emphasis added.)

If there’s a growing industry in America, it’s software development. If there’s an industry growing very fast but slower than software development, it’s grant writing. If Riley really can’t find a job as a grant writer—or become a consultant—there’s something amiss with him, not the industry. At Seliger + Associates we hear all the time about how nonprofit and public agencies can’t find good grant writers.

Axiomatically, however, those nonprofit and public agencies aren’t paying enough to attract qualified candidates—anytime you read about an alleged “shortage” of employees mentally ask yourself, “at what price?”—but nonetheless we are skeptical that qualified grant writers can’t find work. The key word in the preceding sentence is of course “qualified.”

Usually the laid-off-and-can’t-find-work stories are about workers in manufacturing or middle-level office jobs, and that convention exists for a reason: many of those jobs are genuinely disappearing, and the workers in them are either moving up to higher skill jobs, or down. That Peters and Wessel would choose a grant writer as an example is bizarre. That such a convention exists at all is also one small datum that explains why Ezra Klein is trying to build a new kind of news organization, one that perhaps would eliminate the convention altogether or at least deploy it more intelligently.

January 2010 Links: Foundation Giving, Weatherization, Science, Borders, and More

* Drop in Foundation Giving May Be Steeper than Anticipated. Those of you who want a piece of the action should read Isaac’s post PSST! Listen, Do You Want to Know a Secret? Do you Promise Not to Tell?* Here’s How to Write Foundation Proposals.

* You’ve gotta love the convoluted program titles used by the feds, or, in this case, the Department of Energy, which is offering “Recovery Act – Weatherization Assistance Program Training Centers And Programs grants.”

Whoever wrote the RFP also conflates goals and objectives. They should read Isaac’s post “The Goal of Writing Objectives is to Achieve Positive Outcomes (Say What?),” which is much clearer than its intentionally verbose title.

* It turns out that microfinance isn’t a silver bullet. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, microfinance involves making very small loans to very poor people in developing countries; Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank won a Nobel Peace Prize for inventing and/or popularizing the practice.

* One person wrote us an e-mail we responded to, and in a follow-up he said:

Thanks for the info, and I look forward to reading the blog post. I’ve learned more about grants and grant writing from reading your blog than I did earning my B.S. in Emergency Admin. and Planning.

Now that’s a compliment! Depressingly enough, the last section is probably true.

* Along the same lines as above, but from a Tweet: “Not to send business elsewhere, but I highly recommend this #grant newsletter: https://seliger.com/ #foundations.”

* Megan McArdle says that jobs programs don’t work from a macroeconomic perspective:

Even if you could surmount union opposition, the federal government has an ever-increasing thicket of red tape that makes such a thing impractical. It takes months to get hired for a job with the federal government. It takes months to ramp up a new program. By the time you’d gotten your NWPA through Congress over strenuous union objections, appointed someone to head it, set up the funding and hiring procedures, and actually hired people, it would be 2011. Maybe 2012. Perhaps you could waive all the civil service and associated procedure surrounding federal hiring, but I don’t see how.

* Grants.gov will close for four days in February. When is the last time Amazon.com intentionally closed at all?

* Terrorists hurt America most by making it close its borders. In other words, the United States is doing more harm through its reaction to terrorism than the terrorism itself has done, in part because terrorism is highly visible, reported, and immediately obvious while the effects of making border crossing more difficult are diffuse and too seldom discussed.

* For Elderly in Rural Areas, Times Are Distinctly Harder. Do you suppose the reporter has seen or read The Last Picture Show?

* “[…] neither private or public sector efforts are going to take a significant bite out of the digital divide in the foreseeable future.” Sounds like a call for more grant programs. The only really awesome municipal broadband I’ve seen is in Monticello, Minnesota.

* “[Prostitution] involves a good or service (or whatever you want to call it) — sex — which, when undertaken for free by consenting adults is legal but which becomes illegal when money changes hands. Can you think of other goods and services that share this trait?

Me neither.

* In Latino Gardens, Vegetables, Good Health and Savings Flourish.

* Remember: If you apply for a grant program, you might actually win and then have to run said program. This comes up by way of “In Race for U.S. School Grants Is a Fear of Winning:” “One major concern is that should Illinois succeed in the national competition for Race to the Top money, it might not have the ability to finance the long-term costs of any new programs once the federal money has been spent.”

* Prohibition: A Cautionary Tale.

* Prisons or colleges? California “chooses” prisons because of structural issues relating to prison guards’ unions, politics, and laws, all of which interact with one another to produce a nasty outcome. See how at the link.

* Why public domain works matter.

* U.S. Keeps Science Lead, But Other Countries Gain. Compare this to Neal Stephenson’s excellent piece in the New York Times, “Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out.”

* According to the New York Times: The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good. They’re referring to the Making Home Affordable program.

* Why you should use the revolving doors.

* How China wrecked the Copenhagen talks. See also James Fallows’ excellent commentary.

* Manzi’s error: economic growth rate differences between America and Europe are almost entirely explained by population growth rate differences.

* “15th Century Greenland has something in common with IBM in 1980: a belief that historically successful behavior will succeed in the future.”

* A crime theory demolished (or at least altered):

The recession of 2008-09 has undercut one of the most destructive social theories that came out of the 1960s: the idea that the root cause of crime lies in income inequality and social injustice. As the economy started shedding jobs in 2008, criminologists and pundits predicted that crime would shoot up, since poverty, as the “root causes” theory holds, begets criminals. Instead, the opposite happened. Over seven million lost jobs later, crime has plummeted to its lowest level since the early 1960s. The consequences of this drop for how we think about social order are significant.

* News from Seattle: Rainier Beach High School anti-drug mentor also a dealer, police allege.

On the Subject of Crystal Balls and Magic Beans in Writing FIP, SGIG, BTOP and Other Fun-Filled Proposals

I’ve noticed a not-too-subtle change in RFPs lately—largely, I think, due to the Stimulus Bill—that requires us to drag out our trusty Crystal Ball, which is an essential tool of grant writing. Like Bullwinkle J. Moose, we gaze into our Crystal Ball and say,”Eenie meenie chili beanie, the spirits are about to speak,” as we try to answer imponderable questions. For example, our old friend the HUD Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP2) wants:

A reasonable projection of the extent to which the market(s) in your target geography is likely to absorb abandoned and foreclosed properties through increased housing demand during the next three years, if you do not receive this funding.

How many houses will be foreclosed upon, but also absorbed, in our little slice of heaven target area in 2012? If I was smart enough to figure this out, I’d be buying just the right foreclosed houses in just the right places, instead of grant writing. People much smarter than us who were predicting in 2005 how many houses they’d need to absorb in 2009 were tremendously, catastrophically wrong, which is why we’re in this financial mess in the first place: you fundamentally can’t predict what will happen to any market, including real estate markets. Consequently, HUD’s question is so silly as to demand the Crystal Ball approach, so we nailed together available data, plastered it over with academic sounding metric mumbo jumbo, and voila! we had the precise numbers we needed. In other words, we used the S.W.A.G. method (“silly” or “scientific wild assed guess,” depending on your point of view). I have no idea why HUD would ask applicants a question that Warren Buffett (or, Jimmy Buffet for that matter, who may or may not be a cousin of Warren) could not answer, but answer we did.

You can find another example of Crystal Ball grant writing in the brand new and charmingly named Facility Investment Program (FIP), brought to us by HRSA, which are for Section 330 providers (e.g. nonprofit Community Health Centers (CHCs)). We’re writing a couple of these, which requires us to drag out the ‘ol Crystal Ball again, since the applicant is supposed to keep track of the “number of construction jobs” and “projected number of health center jobs created or retained.”

I just lean back, imagine some numbers and start typing, since there is neither a way to accurately predict any of this nor a way to verify it after project completion. HRSA is new to the game of estimating and tracking jobs, so they make it easy for us overworked grant writers and applicants by not requiring job creation certifications. Other agencies, like the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which has been about the business of handing out construction bucks for 40 years, are much craftier. For instance, the ever popular Public Works and Economic Development Program requires applicants to produce iron-clad letters from private sector partners to confirm that at least one permanent job be created for every $5,000 of assistance. We’ve written lots of funded EDA grants over the years, and the inevitable job generation issue is always the most challenging part of the application. HRSA will eventually wise up when they are unable to prove that the ephemeral construction and created/retained jobs ever existed. Alternately, they might wise up when they realize the futility of the endeavor in which they’re engaged, but I’m not betting on it.

This tendency to ask for impossible metrics is always true in grant writing, as Jake discussed in Finding and Using Phantom Data, but sometimes it’s more true than others. I ascribe the recent flurry to the Stimulus Bill because more RFPs than usual are being extruded faster than usual, resulting in even less thought going into them than usual, forcing grant writers to spend even more time pondering what our Crystal Balls might be telling us.

Since the term “Crystal Ball” began popping up whenever I scoped a new proposal with a client, I got to thinking of other shorthand ways of explaining some of the more curious aspects of the federal grant making process to the uninitiated and came up with “Magic Beans,” like Jack and the Beanstalk. We’re writing many proposals these days for businesses, who have never before applied for federal funds, for programs like the Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) Program, and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) of the National Telecommunications & Information Agency.

When scoping such projects, I am invariably on a conference call with a combination of marketing and engineer types. The marketing folks speak in marketing-speak platitudes (“We make the best stuff,” even if they don’t know what the stuff is) and the engineers don’t speak at all. So, to move the process along, and to get answers to the essential “what” and “how” of the project concept, I’ve taken to asking them to, in 20 words or less, describe the “Magic Beans” they will be using and what will happen when the magic beans are geminated after that long golden stream of Stimulus Bucks arcs out of Washington onto their project. This elicits a succinct reply, I can conclude the scoping call, and we can fire up the proposal extruding machine.

So use your Magic Beans to climb the federal beanstalk and reach the ultimate Golden Goose, keeping your Crystal Ball close at hand.