Show me the money: Finding and winning federal grants to advance CTE programs

High schools and colleges are revamping many of their Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs to keep up with the evolving workforce demands and prepare their students for high-skilled to middle-skill employment in high-demand industry sectors. However, finding the financial backing to support relevant CTE programs, can be challenging, which is why many high schools and colleges are increasing their efforts to find grant funds. Recently Jackie Skryd, executive director of grants development at St. Petersburg College in Florida, sat down with me to share some insights about where high schools and colleges can look for grants for CTE.

 

Q: There are so many federal agencies and foundations out there, where does one start when looking for a grant for career and technical education?

Skryd: Since the 1980s most high schools and colleges relied on formula and competitive grants from the Carl D. Perkins Act of 2006 as the main source of funding for career and technical education. It is currently being overhauled and renamed The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. This is an important piece of education legislation and if it passes by the senate by the end of this year would make it easier for both high school and colleges to align programs to evolving workforce demands, access money, and implement and monitor programs at the state level. However, there could be implications as to the use of the funds, such as a transition to funding innovations versus equipment. To help broaden your portfolio of funding, there’s a variety of grant programs available through the Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, and other agencies that are backing education that prepare students at all ages and stages of life to earn industry-recognized certifications and credentials that lead to a path of employment.

Q: What other resources would you suggest for finding grants for CTE programs

Skryd: There are some ‘tried and true’ methods for finding grant opportunities. To start, it is helpful to define your search and set-up parameters, by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Who would be interested in funding this type of program or target group? A government department? A related company that might have a foundation?
  2. Who is funding similar programs or target populations?

For example, if you’re looking for staff and equipment to support a cyber security program, think about what companies might support this type of program through their foundation? Cyber security companies like RSA or IBM might be a good place to start searching in this instance. If your project is related to training and employment in the field, perhaps government agencies supporting workforce development, like the Department of Labor or state-specific workforce agencies would offer a grant opportunity that would fit your need. Does your program expose high school students to this field? Investigate your state’s Department of Education or the U.S. Department of Education, and private foundations for available grant opportunities.

Another key search tactic is to find out who else is funding the type of program you’re looking to support. Do you know of another institution that just expanded their cybersecurity program? Did they receive a grant to support their expansion and who was the funder?

Q: There are so many resources out there, can you offer any other suggestions to colleges and/or administrators on how to streamline the grant search process?

Skryd: The best approach is to talk with your grants office if your college or school has one. They will be able to help you search the available grant databases for federal, state, and foundation grants. Some of the resources I would recommend are:

  • Sample of private foundations awarding grants in higher education:
  • Grant Search Engines:

Also, look directly at government agencies like The U.S. Department of Education, The U.S. Department of Labor, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Or investigate at the state or local agency level, contact your state’s Department of Education, workforce agencies, etc.

Q: Once you find a couple of grant opportunities (called Solicitation for Grant Application (SGA) or Request for Proposal (RFP)) what are some best-practice steps for assessing if it would be a ‘good fit’ for what you want to do?

Skryd: There’s some key steps to take once you find an SGA that may align with your CTE needs. The key areas that I would recommend you to review that will help you decide if you should proceed further are:

    • Summary – Does the grant opportunity fit with your overall idea or need? Does it align with your school’s mission? 
    • Eligibility – Does your school or organization qualify under the eligibility requirements?  In some cases, a funder may require a nonprofit to be the lead.  In this instance, you could align yourself with a community partner that is eligible.
    • Deadline – Will you have enough time to pull together a plan and develop a proposal? Don’t dismiss a grant if the due date has passed. It will likely be released the following year around the same time.  Keep it on your radar and start preparing in advance.  The RFPs tend to remain close to the same year after year. 
    • Amount –How much is the grant award maximum?  You need to measure the value of that amount with the time you put into writing the proposal and the time for managing the grant if awarded.  If the grant requires more work than what the award seems to support, it might not be a strategic decision to apply.
    • Number of Awards – How many awards is the funder projecting to award?  Knowing this information will help you to determine just how competitive is the grant.

Q: You just mentioned that you should consider if you have enough time to pull together a plan and write a proposal for a grant application, can you talk about a few CTE program designs that have helped you secure grant funds recently?

Skryd: That is a great question and I will definitely share some success stories with you, but you’ll have to come to the Pearson webinar:

Show Me the Money: Finding and Winning the Right Federal Grants to Advance Your CTE Programs, Wednesday, November 2, 2016 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET

I will also talk about the latest federal grants targeted towards career and technical education, who the agencies are funding, and what they are really looking for in program designs. This is key information that will help you capture a piece of the pie at a time when funding is scarce and highly competitive. Some of the other topics I will cover are:

  • Federal Funding Forecast for 2017 with an emphasis on the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, Energy and the National Science Foundation;
  • Tips for finding relevant funding sources;
  • Program design strategies that work including planning ahead, how to determine the right partners, and program design elements to consider.

 

About Jackie Skryd

Jackie Skryd has served for nearly 15 years in the areas of workforce and education.  At St. Petersburg College (SPC) she is responsible for leading college-wide resource development and grant management in support of over 57,000 students annually. Under Jackie’s visionary leadership, the total grant dollars awarded to SPC has grown from $3 million to $65 million in less than five years. This includes seven federal Department of Labor TAACCCT and H-1B grant programs geared at helping students and community members succeed in acquiring the skills, degrees and credentials needed for high-wage, high-skill employment, as well as Carl D. Perkins funding worth over $2 million each year.  Prior to SPC, Jackie earned another $20 million in grant funding working for the local workforce board. Her combined experience in workforce development and education has made her a valued subject matter expert in grant development and collaborative initiatives throughout Tampa Bay, Florida and nationally, concentrating on funding for initiatives with high community and student impact, such as access to scholarships, strengthening student support services and improving employment and training programs targeting in-demand fields from key industries including healthcare, IT, financial services, advanced manufacturing and supply chain management. Jackie holds a B.A. in International Studies Business and Management from the University of Michigan. She is a recipient of the 30 Under 30 award by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, a prize that recognizes Tampa Bay’s top leaders under the age of 30, on the Board of Directors for Leadership Tampa Bay, and is the incoming chair for the Florida Council of Resource Development Board of Directors, a branch of the Florida College System’s Council of Presidents.