Employment and Training Administration
Washington, D. C. 20210


JTPA/Capacity Building




Dec. 5, 1994





for Regional Management
SUBJECT : Status of Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) Program Year 1993-94 Capacity Building Pilot Projects

  1. Purpose. To provide an update on the status of capacity-building pilot projects, and a description of the projects funded through the recently awarded challenge grants.

  2. References. Training and Employment Information Notice (TEIN) No. 49-93, Capacity Building Strategy Paper, and TEIN 43-93, Capacity-Building Challenge Grants

  3. Background. The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has initiated a long-range capacity building strategy aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of staff in local and State agencies that administer employment and training services across the country. Many of our activities are in response to and supportive of what we heard during the recent Dialogue on Training and Employment Programs for the Disadvantaged. In the short term, ETA has launched three specific capacity-building pilot projects through its Regional Offices and has funded challenge grants to the States to encourage the development of innovative training methods. The resulting products or strategies will be offered for replication throughout the employment and training system. In addition to the information discussed below, we are also undertaking an extensive capacity building consultation process which will be explained in a forthcoming TEIN.

  4. Capacity Building Pilot Projects. The three capacity building pilot projects include the development of: (1) peer-to-peer technical assistance models; (2) continuous improvement project for local job training providers; and (3) a set of computer-based training modules for the recently developed subject-specific Technical Assistance Guides (TAGs). Following is a summary of each capacity-building project.


    Regions I and IV were each awarded grants to establish peer-to-peer technical assistance (TA) strategies. Each region is identifying subject-matter experts to provide assistance and developing a process for delivering the assistance. The two projects differ in approach and scope and will offer a number of replicable peer-to-peer TA strategies that other regions may adapt to meet their needs.

    Region I

    In Region I, the States had already pooled resources through a "New England Compact" to provide subject-specific training to front-line staff. This "Compact" provides the framework for the region's peer-to-peer TA efforts.

    Working through a project advisory group of representatives from the Compact, Region I's project has three phases. Phase I involves assessing the training needs of the front-line staff throughout the region and identifying State and Service Delivery Area (SDA) staff with expertise in these areas. (Standards are being developed regarding what constitutes an "expert.") The experts will be listed in a Resource Guide, arranged by subject area, that will identify persons as resources or peer "consultants" in a particular subject. They will also identify mentors who can provide one-on-one assistance.

    During Phase II of the project, the Compact will hold a "Peer Assistance Institute" to provide staff who have identified expertise in certain areas with the skills and tools they will need to be able to effectively share that expertise. Subsequent training sessions will prepare mentors.

    In the future, States and SDAs will be able to call upon the peer "consultants" to provide training throughout the region. Consultants contacted through the Resource Guide will be paid for their time and for travel by the Compact. A project coordinator will match the "mentors" with new front-line staff persons to whom they can provide one-on-one advice and guidance over the telephone. All training will be evaluated and tracked to assess its quality and effectiveness.

    At present, the project advisory group has nearly completed phase I of the project. They are currently compiling the results of the needs assessment and expert identification surveys. The next steps will involve producing the Resource Guide and holding the Peer Assistance Institute.

    Region IV

    Region IV's Regional Office is working with a contractor, MDC Inc. of North Carolina. Their approach includes identifying topics and subject areas in which expertise is needed, successful system models, and approaches for delivering peer-to-peer assistance.

    By the completion of the project, MDC will produce a directory of "experts," program models, and system models as well as a "how-to" book providing relevant information needed for replicating a peer-to-peer technical assistance network in other regions.

    Region IV has also begun to put together a regional work group, composed of representative employment and training practitioners from each State.

    This work group will identify experts and exemplary program models and arrange for and conduct peer-to-peer capacity building activities. The work group has met to discuss peer-to-peer network development, quality control (criteria for identifying "experts"), methods and materials (information exchange, staffing), and system management and coordination.

    State-level coordinators have been selected to oversee peer-to-peer capacity building demonstrations. Each State has been given the flexibility to design its own system, and States are presently developing implementation plans. At a minimum, each State must designate a single point of contact and develop a database of peer trainers.

    SIMPLY BETTER: An Initiative for Continuous Improvement

    Regions III and X have partnered with a team of job training providers including the State of Virginia; SDAs from Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, and Berks County, PA; and a private sector provider to develop a set of quality improvement tools and techniques furthering continuous improvement and customer satisfaction.

    The project, which is called "SIMPLY BETTER: An Initiative for Continuous Improvement," will be a year-long effort during which time the project team will gather and disseminate information about local quality improvement tools and customer satisfaction measures.

    Expected products include: 1) a self-assessment guide for local job training providers to identify where they could more effectively use quality principles and practices to achieve high performance levels of customer satisfaction and operational performance; 2) tools and techniques for getting customer input into the design, operation, and results of programs and services; 3) a suggested approach for managing process quality; and 4) approaches for measuring operational results including return on investment.

    The project team has developed a survey form to gather information from the local job training providers about what they are already doing, or need, to measure performance, such as "Return-On-Investment," customer satisfaction surveys, focus groups, etc. From this information, the team will build a compendium of quality improvement techniques and processes geared to the needs of local employment and training practitioners and a directory of local job training providers engaged in various aspects of continuous improvement who are willing to share their experiences with others. The vision for the Simply Better project includes assistance to an expanding network of job training providers throughout the country who desire to improve their services and outcomes through reflecting and acting on what truly satisfies their customers.


    To enhance wide-spread knowledge of the content of its TAGs, ETA has initiated an effort to create interactive, computerized training modules from these TAGs. These modules will be designed for use by front-line staff at their work stations.

    Region VIII, in cooperation with the State of Missouri, the Missouri Training Institute (MTI), the University of Missouri, and the Utah Office of Job Training for Economic Development, will develop user-friendly computer-based training aides. MTI and the University of Missouri, with assistance from The Utah Job Training Office, will provide instructional design and curriculum development assistance. MTI will be responsible for the completion of each phase.

    The first module will cover the material in the JTPA Eligibility Documentation TAG. It will focus initially on one aspect of eligibility, such as income determination. The final product will be produced in two formats: interactive text-based tutorials and compact discs with read-only-memory (CD ROMs).

    There are plans for a total of six computerized TAGs, including assessment, case management, and financial management.

  5. Challenge Grants. In March 1994, ETA issued a solicitation for grant applications to States for the development and/or improvement of cross-agency training delivery systems, innovative and replicable program models, and training products that have broad application through the system.

    ETA recently selected the 10 States (Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, and Vermont) to receive challenge grant awards of up to $125,000. The funded projects vary from establishing a professional certificate program in Missouri to developing user-friendly materials on using labor market information in Oregon, to creating a computer-based training system on client assessment techniques in Vermont. A description of each grant is attached.

  6. Inquiries. Questions about capacity building should be addressed to Elaine Kolodny in the Office of Employment and Training Programs on (202) 219-5229. Questions about individual projects should be addressed to:

    Heather Graham, Region I 617-565-2242
    Mary Smarr, Region IV 404-347-3495

    Simply Better
    Barry Bridge, Region III 215-596-6353
    Rosemary Kafara-Cowan, 206-553-5642 Region X x.8018

    Computer-Based Training Modules John Sweeney, Region VIII 303-844-4681
    Challenge Grants Jim Zurer 202-219-5229

  7. 7. Attachment.

    A description of the 10 challenge grant awards.