Bridging the Skills Gap: Project Overview

Project Introduction & Overview

Bridging the Skills Gap is a research-based, data-driven pilot project funded by the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska that identifies community-based workforce development strategies aimed at assisting rural communities to be more strategic and competitive in their workforce planning initiatives. The research pilot area consisted of six counties in northeast Nebraska and four counties in central South Dakota — in many ways, a microcosm of small town America. Agriculture, manufacturing and health care are mainstays of the local economy throughout these communities.

PilotStudyRegionMapB PilotStudyRegionMapA

However, like many rural areas, communities across this region are experiencing those same challenges in addressing workforce skills gaps as identified in the introduction to this site. Though the project is tailored to the needs of the participating regions in the Great Plains and Midwest, the intent is for the findings and best practices to be applicable to many communities across the rural landscape. Bridging the Skills Gap brought together a multidisciplinary team of researchers and Extension community development specialists and practitioners from Purdue University, the University of Nebraska, and South Dakota State University, along with over 120 citizens and community stakeholders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors across the participating communities.

The focus of the project’s key components:


This project was funded by Rural Futures Institute’s Competitive Awards Program (2014-2016)


Understanding the Problem
Project Overview
Community Process & Collaboration
Importance of Labor Market Data
Promising Practices
Bridging the Skills Gap Team