Community Economics & Workforce Development

FORWARD – Future Opportunities for Rural Workforce and Rural Development

Sponsored by Ascendium Education Group, the FORWARD curriculum is designed to support Cooperative Extension Professionals (CEPs) working to address workforce development issues in rural communities. This project expands upon Cooperative Extension’s experience with youth engagement and career development to target non-traditional student populations such as incumbent, displaced, and low-income workers. This curriculum helps CEPs work with communities to identify and address the career pathway needs of rural workers--particularly low-income rural workers—as well as employers in rural communities.

This program is ideal for communities where:

  • Community leaders need assistance in identifying the community’s needs for workforce development.
  • There is an underdeveloped workforce development eco-system in the community and limited effort to strengthen the ties across entities.
  • There is a need to generate new opportunities for low-income workers and connect them with available jobs.
  • Community leaders agree that Cooperative Extension can fill a gap by facilitating a community conversation about workforce development and job and training opportunities for low-income workers.

Moving Communities Forward LogoThe purpose of this curriculum is to build cooperative extension professional’s (CEP)’s capacity to serve as facilitators of workforce solutions in rural communities. The focus on low-income workers is designed to support social and economic mobility for rural people and thereby improve the economic resilience of rural communities. This focus includes both traditional low-income rural students graduating from high school and looking for their first career options and non-traditional low-income worker-learners such as displaced workers, incumbent workers in low-wage jobs, and those facing barriers to employment such as a history of incarceration.

This curriculum is designed to guide CEP’s work with community stakeholders to design and implement career pathways that move low-income rural students and workers into and through pathways that lead to jobs in demand in local communities—with positive outcomes for low-income workers and employers. Low-income workers can learn about the opportunities available in their rural communities, the pathways of training and experiences needed to take advantage of those opportunities, and the resources available to connect them to the required training and experiences. Employers will develop an understanding of how they might recruit, train, and retain high quality workers that can fill available jobs and help companies grow.

Program Takeaways

A completed career pathway can be used to inform:

  • employer training needs;
  • training needs in region;
  • educational programs;
  • social services to assist workers;
  • partners of existing workforce development eco-system; and
  • other community planning efforts for workforce development.

Target Audiences

The program is designed to engage decision-makers and local leaders, including workforce, education, training and social service entities in rural communities that touch the workforce pipeline impacting local employment opportunities.

To learn more, contact a member of the campus team listed below. We will also connect you with your local county Extension office to develop a program that fits your planning needs.

Tanya Hall
Community Development Regional Educator

Michael Wilcox
Community Development Program Leader

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