Roundtable Examines Stretching Boundaries for Rural Workforce

Article excerpt

Rural community leaders and state agency officials in Oregon came together for the first Rural Workforce Roundtable, Stretching the Boundaries, led by the National League of Cities and the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL). The roundtable, held April 2-3 in Portland, Ore., is part of NLC's Rural Workforce Project, funded by the Ford Foundation and the Aspen Institute, to explore how to best develop the workforce in nonmetropolitan areas throughout America.

The roundtable is part of the targeted research the project is conducting in a number of communities in each of four states to explore rural workforce issues and identify "best practices." Findings from the project will be published in the fall of 1992.

Most of the roundtable attendees had participated in research interviews conducted by Phyllis Furdell of NLC and Joan Wills of IEL. Present were municipal officials from rural Oregon, local administrators of the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) and the Job Opportunity and Basic Skills (JOBS) programs, school superintendents and community college presidents. Also attending were state officials from the Oregon Board of Education, the Office of Educational Policy and Planning, the State Department of Education, the Oregon Workforce Development Council, the Joint Legislative Committee on Trade and Economic Development, the Department of Human Resources, and Adult and Family Services.

The League of Oregon Cities identified additional municipal officials who were grappling with workforce issues in rural communities and who were interested in being part of the roundtable. Philip Fell represented LOC at the event.

Representatives from state agencies and ten rural communities were led by Betty Hale of IEL through a series of processes that began with envisioning how empowered rural communities would look ten years down the road. After identifying barriers to their visions of empowered communities and looking at the possibilities of new paradigms for rural areas, the groups were ready to frame strategies for overcoming those barriers.

Rural leaders sent clear messages to state representatives:

[Section] Although state agencies need to set workforce and educational goals, strategies to achieve them should be developed at the local level. …