This report describes the implementation of the U.S. Department of Labor's H-1B Technical Skills Training (TST) Grants program. Findings were based on information collected between fall 2013 and spring 2014 (midway through the grant programs) via phone interviews with all grantees and site visits with five grantees. 

The study examined key operational themes and strategies from all the grantee programs, including industry focus, target populations, partner roles and responsibilities, types of services provided, target credentials, and recruitment strategies.  It also focused on the targeted populations and industries, employer partnerships, and training and service delivery strategies as they relate to the incumbent worker and on-the-job training programs.  To address skill shortages in the U.S. labor market, the Employment and Training Administration awarded 76 grants, in 2011 and 2012, to partnerships of workforce agencies, training providers, employers, and other organizations. The grant programs were designed to train unemployed individuals and incumbent workers for middle-skill positions in such sectors as information technology; communication and broadband technology; advanced manufacturing; and healthcare, including health IT. The grant program is funded by fees paid by businesses seeking to hire foreign individuals requiring an H-1B visa. This report documents grantees' experiences operating their training programs and spotlights two employer-based training strategies: incumbent worker training, where employers refer employees to training to upgrade workers' skills, and on-the-job training, where the individuals' wages are subsidized as an incentive for employers to hire and train workers.

Major Findings & Recommendations

As discussed in this report, TST grantees implemented a wide range of training strategies to improve the skills and employment options of American workers, including those who are unemployed or currently working but in need of skills upgrade. These grant programs—which generally function as partnerships between workforce agencies, employers, and educational institutions—support classroom training, incumbent worker training, and OJT in a range of industries but most commonly in IT, healthcare, and manufacturing. The TST grants generally support training for individuals at a middle-skill level who can qualify for training programs that prepare them for jobs above the entry level.

The descriptive information collected by the study indicates that most grantees have successfully launched and implemented these employer-based training strategies, many of which operate on a relatively large scale. Collectively, their experiences offer insights into the incumbent worker and OJT program implementation. These lessons are highlighted below:

  1. Flexibility in program design helps grantees address local training and employment needs, particularly those of employers.
  2. Partnerships with employers are critical to the training initiatives, and concerted recruitment efforts are needed to engage this community.
  3. The dual-target groups of the TST grants have presented recruitment challenges for some grantees and made participant outreach a priority.
  4. Grantees’ efforts to establish employer partnerships broadened awareness of the public workforce system in the business community.
  5. Employer-based training can be an important strategy for promoting a career pathway approach.
  6. Reducing the administrative burden on employers helps to gain and maintain their commitment to the program.
  7. Employer-based training models require ongoing attention.
  8. Mechanisms for monitoring employer-based training are needed.
  9. Grant funds are useful for leveraging employers’ specialized training resources.
  10. Employer-based training requires balancing the needs of workers and employers.

The TST grants opened avenues for the workforce system to engage with employers in the training and advancement of workers in middle-skill jobs in the IT, healthcare, and manufacturing sectors.