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Trade Adjustment Assistance Navigators Offer New Opportunities in Partnerships with Adult Education

by Kate Daly Rolander

Since 2013 ,when the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) began exploring ways to reskill the large number of workers whose jobs had been outsourced in the Radford area, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) State Coordinator Anna Rice-Wright has endorsed the PluggedInVA model as the preferred model for integrated education and training for TAA-impacted workers. At that time, Anna approached the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center to expand the PluggedInVA model to the fourth-and fifth-grade skill levels at which most of the TAA-eligible workers were testing. Previously, the model had been appropriate only for those who tested with at least an eighth- or ninth-grade reading level. Through strong partnerships between the VEC and the adult education program at New River Community College, then led by Jenny Bolte, 65 trade-impacted workers trained and studied in PluggedInVA cohorts in the first year. Partnerships between TAA and adult education continue to grow across the state, and new developments in Virginia’s TAA program ensure an increasingly expansive role in the development of learner-driven PluggedInVA programs.

TAA State Coordinator Anna Rice-Wright has endorsed the PluggedIn VA model as the preferred model for integrated education and training for TAA-inpacted workers.

What is TAA?

TAA, run in Virginia through the VEC, provides workers adversely affected by outsourcing with opportunities to obtain the skills, credentials, resources, and supports necessary to find new employment. Any member of a worker group certified as eligible by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of TAA may be able to receive a range of benefits and services, including training, employment and case management services, job search allowances, relocation allowances, and income support in the form of Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA). Reemployment TAA (RTAA) and Alternative TAA (ATAA) are two additional programs that provide wage supplements for re-employed workers fifty and older whose remployment has resulted in lower wages than those earned in their trade-affected employment.

Who are the TAA Navigators?

In response to increasing demand, the VEC developed the TAA Navigator role and has hired six navigators around the state. The navigators plan and coordinate the delivery of customized Trade Rapid Response (RR) services and benefits under the federal TAA program to eligible employees impacted by layoffs due to foreign competition, and they work closely with employers to build partnerships. Another important navigator responsibility is to build strong relationships with adult education programs statewide to ensure that adult education has a strong voice at all Business Services Team meetings. Navigators are also responsible for coordinating with local adult education program managers to create and develop PluggedInVA training opportunities for trade-affected workers at all skill levels. The navigators use their knowledge from collaborative partner meetings and local employer contacts to provide guidance to ensure that cohorts are developed to align with industry-driven opportunities.

What makes a TAA PluggedInVA different than others?

TAA-driven PluggedInVA programs are distinct from those funded by adult education or the community college system in a few important ways. First, TAA funding allows for increased instructional intensity by compensating clients for up to 30 hours of education and training services each week. The funding covers TAA-eligible learners’ tuition, books, and supplies, ensuring they receive the amount of education and training they need to be successful in future employment.

The second and perhaps more impactful distinction between TAA-funded and other PluggedInVA programs is the learner-driven nature of the program structure. In traditionally developed PluggedInVA programs, jobs and training opportunities are identified first, and then potential students are screened for eligibility and aptitude. With TAA, the learners come as a cohort, most with 20 to 25 years of work experience and an average age over 45 years. Because the cohorts come to a PluggedInVA program intact, the program design demands a multi-level, differentiated approach to effectively accommodate different academic skill levels, occupational training experiences, comfort with educational environments, and aptitudes for identified industries and training opportunities. With the appropriate supports, exceptional gains have been achieved within compressed timeframes, allowing many of the TAA-impacted workers to quickly strengthen academic skills, earn their secondary credentials, and complete occupational training that leads them to promising careers in new industries.

See the IET Blueprint for more information, resources, and contacts regarding opportunities with TAA and PluggedInVA. You’ll find contact information and geographic assignments for the six TAA navigators as well as templates for contracts and memoranda of understanding. For questions about TAA, see the Virginia Employment Commission Website.

Kate Daly Rolander is Workforce Instructional Specialist at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center.