Learn to earn initiative

On behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts's interagency workgroup comes the Learn to Earn Initiative.

The Learn to Earn Initiative (LTE), proposed by Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karen Polito and adopted by the Legislature in the FY18 General Appropriations Act, is a comprehensive approach to providing unemployed and underemployed individuals who are receiving assistance from public benefit programs with the supports, skills, and credentials they need to gain and retain employment in occupations for which employers have persistent demand. LTE Partnerships will develop and test models to serve participants in the context of their family/household. LTE Programs will help participants set and achieve goals necessary for employment and sustained economic stability, such as maintaining and growing family net resources and minimizing the real or perceived potential impact of increased earned income on benefit receipt, including improving coordination across benefit programs and reducing benefit cliff effects.

About the grant

About the Grant Program: Commonwealth Corporation seeks qualified partnerships that, upon successful grant award, will work with Commonwealth Corporation for a duration of three (3) months to design or re-design an occupationally-specific training and placement program that will:

  • increase participants’ earned income (net of any resulting decrease in public benefits),
  • improve participants’ and their families’ economic stability, and
  • meet employers’ demand for talent.

Following the three-month program design period each partnership will, upon review and approval of their implementation plan, be awarded funding to implement their program for up to two years.

What does the LTE initiative consist of?

The LTE Initiative consists of the following elements:

Cohort-based, occupationally-specific programs designed and managed by regional industry sector partnerships, including:

  • Individualized and comprehensive assessment of education and work history, strengths, and barriers to employment 
  • Contextualized, competency-based education and skills training
  • Contextualized, competency-based work readiness training
  • Placement in paid or unpaid work experience
  • Coordinated case management and mentoring to address barriers to employment
  • Family-focused supports and services, where applicable
  • Benefits counseling to help navigate public benefit systems and understand impacts of work on receipt of those benefits
  • Job development and placement services, including post-placement support
  • A Learning Community of LTE grantees and key state agency staff to support grantees and share effective practices
  • A state-level LTE Interagency Workgroup that will:
    • Provide professional development to LTE program staff on cliff effects and benefits navigation
    • Engage with the LTE Learning Community to learn about common issues facing individuals who are receiving public benefits and are attempting to transition to work or increase their income through additional hours of work or higher-level employment
    • Identify the need for and pursue state-level policy changes regarding public benefits eligibility criteria and income/asset thresholds
    • Support on-demand, customer-centered problem-solving for individual participants by a state-level representative of each of the identified public benefit programs (specifically child care (DTA authorized vouchers, or Income Eligible child care subsidies), nutrition (SNAP and WIC), income supports (TANF/TAFDC), subsidized housing, and MassHealth)
  • Establishment of a “Benefit Innovation Fund” of up to $250,000 to provide support to individual participants and their families as needed to address and mitigate real or perceived benefit cliff issues and benefit coordination issues that they might face, especially as they transition to employment or increased earnings.

Program structure and design expectations

  • This program is structured in two phases following Request for Qualification (RFQ) submission, including a three-month Program Design Phase and two-year Implementation Phase:
  • Pre-design
    • Lead Applicants form partnership and submit RFQ that identifies the target occupation and the target population
  • Program design phase
    • Selected partnerships join learning community and work with CommCorp and the Interagency Workgroup to enhance program design and develop implementation plan and budget
  • Implementation phase
    • Partnerships implement newly enhanced programs leading to sustained, unsubsidized employment and career progression
    • The Interagency Workgroup supports on-going monitoring and assessment to inform programmatic shifts and state-level policy changes

NOTE: During the Program Design Phase, the Interagency Workgroup will incorporate input from selected partnerships to determine how to address public benefit issues, including real or perceived cliff effect issues, through the Benefit Innovation Fund.

Partnerships will have three (3) months to complete program design activities. Commonwealth Corporation will be engaged with partnerships throughout the Program Design Phase. Partnership members must commit to participating in a program design and technical assistance structure. Partnerships should plan for two meetings (in person or via conference call) per month during the Program Design Phase (January 2018–March 2018):

  • one meeting of all funded partnerships facilitated by Commonwealth Corporation in which the funded partnerships will focus on the program design topics for the month
  • one meeting between each partnership and Commonwealth Corporation to focus on key challenges or areas that are unique to each partnership’s program design activities

Who's eligible?

Required Partnership Qualifications: Partnerships must ensure they have all the partners needed to reach and support their target population in securing employment for their target occupation. Each partner must commit to engaging fully in program planning, development, and implementation in order to design or re-design components of a training and placement program. Each partner must demonstrate their commitment to the design and implementation process for the Learn to Earn Initiative. Each partner must also outline their role and anticipated activities. Each partner’s commitments, roles and activities must be provided either through a signed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among partners or through the submission of separate letters of commitment.

Eligible Lead Applicants: The following organizations are eligible to apply as lead applicants on behalf of a partnership:

  • Community-based organizations, including adult basic education providers
  • Employers with operations in Massachusetts and that employ Massachusetts residents in the proposed target occupation
  • Employer associations
  • Higher education institutions
  • Labor organizations
  • Local workforce development entities
  • Local workforce investment boards
  • Nonprofit education, training or other service providers
  • One-stop career centers
  • Vocational education institutions

Lead Applicant Qualifications: Lead applicants must:

  • Convene the partners to achieve the overall project goals, including, but not limited to, coordinating the design of the project, developing an appropriate budget, negotiating agreement of the project performance management measures, and coordinating all activities of the project.
  • Have experience with grant management and operational capacity to manage public funds.
  • Have a commitment to work collaboratively with Commonwealth Corporation to ensure that the program is designed to meet participants’ needs and achieve planned outcomes.

Required Partners: Partnerships must include a minimum of two businesses with operations in Massachusetts and that employ Massachusetts residents in the proposed target occupation. Business partners must demonstrate the following through the MOA or letter of commitment:

  • Demonstrated Demand: Vacancies and/or hiring needs for workers in the proposed target occupation and a commitment to a candidate-sourcing strategy that includes recruiting and training members of the proposed target population as a solution to meet this demand
  • Expertise with Technical, Soft Skill, and Work Readiness Requirements: Ability to articulate the technical, soft skills, and work readiness requirements for entry-level employment in the proposed target occupation as well as a commitment to provide time to work with partners to design a program that will prepare members of the proposed target population for successful employment in the proposed target occupation

Additional Resources for