United Tribes NewsUTTC selected for Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge
Funding Awarded for Tribal Environment Risk Management Program
27 October 2011
BISMARCK (UTN) - United Tribes Technical College is among a group of 20 recipients in the Obama Administration’s “Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.” The college will receive $1.7 million over the next four years to implement the Upper Missouri Tribal Environmental Risk Mitigation (UM TERM) cluster.
The project will deliver education, training and technical assistance in the areas of tribal water, land and wildlife resources, and mitigating environmental risk and distress. Part of the project will support the work of tribal planners in accelerating business development opportunities for Native Americans and reduce unemployment.
“We’re talking about areas of the country where the norm is economic depression and generational unemployment,” said David M. Gipp, United Tribes Technical College president. “Unemployment far exceeds the national average among tribal populations. In some cases unemployment rates approach 90 percent.”
The geographic region served by the United Tribes cluster is Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, including the 19 reservations located in the Upper Missouri River basin.
The Obama Administration describes the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge and its regional clusters as a “smarter use of federal resources.”
In announcing the awards September 22, U. S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis characterized the ‘challenge’ as “a new platform for cooperation and collaboration,” involving local communities, private companies, public entities, workers and educators.
Examples of strong regional clusters known for promoting economic growth and developing skilled workers are Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and Silicon Valley in California.
The United Tribes award was one part of the larger, $37 million, multi-agency national competition administered by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) in partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA).
Twenty-one states will benefit from the investments. Included are projects and programs in both urban and rural areas of the nation that offered custom solutions and involve leveraging private capital for long-term economic growth.
“One of the objectives of this ‘challenge’ by design was to focus on broadening inclusion in the innovation economy,” said John R. Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “The criteria we required specifically sought bridges to underserved communities to bring them into the high-growth innovation clusters. That wasn’t an add on; it was very deliberate. If you go through the various projects, like United Tribes Technical College, you’ll see a common theme. They have very real, specific initiatives to broaden inclusion in this innovation agenda. And that’s something we’re all particularly excited about.”
UM TERM Cluster
Native Americans experience higher incidences of environmentally-related health issues than other groups in the region. Concerns about the environment have plagued tribal communities and the response has not been timely or meaningful. The impacts of environmental degradation have contributed to stagnant business growth and limited opportunities for workers.
The UM-TERM cluster will tap existing resources of tribal colleges, the Native American Business Enterprise Center funded by the Minority Business Development Agency, and the resources of tribes, including and especially tribal planners. The project is to provide training and education for 1,045 participants, create a sustainable network of approximately 120 regional environmental technicians, and result in 15 new minority-owned businesses.
Over two dozen federal agencies are involved in the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, either by providing technical assistance, existing resources and/or investments. The UM TERM project will receive grants from three agencies:
Department of Labor - Employment and Training Administration
One million dollars in funding from the ETA will be used to form a tribal college coalition to develop common coursework required for Associate Degree programs related to environmental risk mitigation. A series of short-term certificate programs, based on currently identified demand, will be designed for incumbent workers and for participants interested in building more marketable and specialized skill sets. At least 20 students per year are expected to complete an associate degree from each coalition college beginning at the end of year two. It is also anticipated that ten participants will graduate from the BS programs at each of the three coalition colleges that offer a BS degree in Environmental Science at the end of year four.
Economic Development Administration
The EDA investment of $567-thousand supports the creation of a network of tribal environmental risk mitigation professionals and practitioners and tribal planners. Also included will be private businesses that work in the environmental fields, and federal, state, local, and tribal governmental agencies. EDA funds will be used to support participants in accessing short term certificate training offered through the project. Funds will also be used to collaborate with MBDA , Native CDFIs, and tribal leaders to assure a positive economic climate for UM TERM-related businesses on the reservations.
Small Business Administration
An investment of $149-thousand by the SBA will be used to coordinate entrepreneurial opportunities in the environmental sciences. Included will be the Native American Business Network’s “Indianpreneurship” seminar, a culturally relevant program for Native entrepreneurs who want to start their own business.
“SBA training support will teach basic business skills in the context of tribal and cultural values,” said Dan Hannaher, SBA Regional Administrator. “We’re hopeful that a number of environmental small businesses will be created and sustained from this innovative effort.”
The SBA funding will support the writing of business plans, create mentorships, and connect cluster members with the local Small Business Development Centers.
Members of the North Dakota Congressional delegation praised the award to United Tribes. Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg said in a joint statement: “This grant is an investment in North Dakota's future workforce. The funding will help create and sustain jobs and allow UTTC to continue to promote education and long term economic growth.”
All of the grants associated with the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge were awarded through a competitive process based upon the application’s merit and eligibility, and the availability of funds. The competition is part of the Obama Administration’s Taskforce on Advancing Regional Innovation Clusters.
United Tribes News
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