In May of last year, Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) received a grant from Ascendium to support Rural Works, a workforce development initiative that encourages rural communities to reimagine and redevelop the workforce systems that impact their communities the most. With grant funds, the organization began working toward their goal of connecting unemployed and underemployed rural workers to the training, education and industry credentials needed to compete for quality jobs. There was a particular focus on helping communities working to overcome high rates of poverty and unemployment, which connects closely to Ascendium’s target population of learners from low-income backgrounds.
Rural LISC utilizes a framework that focuses on the alignment of systems to help rural workforce stakeholders overcome barriers, solve for local solutions and fund workforce development. Over the past year, they have used the framework in several communities to engage collaborations with a lead partner or organization, a postsecondary education partner, an employer partner and a workforce investment board. Their initial successes have been outlined in a newly released Rural Works Highlights Report.
It quickly became clear to Rural LISC that the need for their programming and services was immense. They had initially anticipated connecting 11 rural communities with workforce serving organizations. However, the coalition became broader to include:
- 37 postsecondary partnerships.
- 36 community-based organizations.
- 13 workforce investment boards.
- 145 employers.
These coalition partners worked in collaboration to train and employ rural workers over the past year. Rural LISC even surpassed their goal of serving 5,000 individuals over the course of their three-year grant in just the first year.
Rural LISC was also able to secure over $7 million in additional funding to continue the work of establishing quality postsecondary education and workforce development collaborations in the rural communities they are serving.
These highlights speak to the need that individuals and communities have as they recover from the COVID-19 health crisis. They also demonstrate that interest is increasing from organizations, companies, philanthropies and even federal entities that want to help rural communities and their residents succeed.
Ascendium looks forward to the continuation of Rural LISC’s Rural Works initiative as they further explore partnerships and system alignments to better serve rural workers from low-income backgrounds. Their initiative closely aligns with an investment priority in the Support Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training focus area to support strong connections between postsecondary education providers and employers.