Rural Workforce Development


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    Rural Workforce Development

    The Western Rural Development Center, in collaboration with the Western Extension Directors Association, has assembled a team of western researchers and Extension faculty to address rural workforce development issues in the western U.S. Of particular concern and interest is workforce development among veteran farmers. 

    Workforce Challenges

    In recent decades, employment in manufacturing, construction, and resource-based industries (agriculture, logging, and mining) have all significantly declined, largely as a consequence of ever-improving technology. These industries have traditionally been the primary employers of rural workers. Many workers that were once employed in these declining industries lack the education, training, or skills to obtain high-quality employment in other industries. The consequence of this mismatch between skills and available jobs is high rates of unemployment, and underemployment and subsequent despair.


    This program brings together those in the region already working on these issues to analyze data to improve understanding of existing programs, the gaps/needs relative to workforce development in the West, identify what may be needed to better address these gaps/needs, and then develop a plan to conduct additional research and/or develop outreach programs. The project team will work to identify cross-over potential with the Western Governors’ Association Workforce Development Initiative and the USDA-wide effort to support veteran farmers. Project outcomes may be published in the Western Rural Development Center’s magazine Rural Connections, as a WRDC Western Policy Brief, as well as in scientific journals. Additionally, the outcomes may be presented via webinar.

    Possible Research Questions the Team May Consider:

    • To what extent do the skills and training of western workers vary from the skills and training required for high-quality employment in today’s job market?
    • What other research has been conducted on workforce development problems and what other workforce training programs are available?

    Program Team

    Don Albrecht, Western Rural Development Center

    Tom Harris, University of Nevada, Reno

    Paul Hill, Utah State University

    Michael Patrick, New Mexico State University

    Loretta Singletary, University of Nevada, Reno

    M. Anne Visser, University of California, Davis