Bridging the Skills Gap: Promising Practices

Promising Practices
in Rural Workforce Development

During the community conversations with stakeholders and the regional data analysis, the project team observed two clear workforce issues in both states that centered on the region’s desire and need to:

Within each of these issues, more specific themes emerged after a thorough document review of the community stakeholder meetings and during the analysis of the gaps between the economic sectors that were growing within the region and the workforce education and training that was available. This mixed methods “drilling down” approach using workforce skills data illuminated common needs that the project team believes resonate not only with the pilot communities in South Dakota and Nebraska but with many rural communities across the U.S.

The following themes became areas for the project team to research and investigate as they tried to find “real life” community or business examples of how others have addressed these concerns. Originally developed as a way to assist the pilot communities, the examples or “promising practices” offer rural community stakeholders — regardless of their location — a sample of new and different approaches that will hopefully spark additional regional ideas and strategies as they address their own workforce skills gap.

Promoting Youth Awareness in Manufacturing Careers

Jackson Area, MI | Population: 34,000

The Academy for Manufacturing Careers (AMC) in Jackson, Michigan, in collaboration with the Jackson Area Manufacturer Association (JAMA), has developed innovative camps for young children that are created to spark an interest in STEM principles. The programs have been developed to trigger an interest in manufacturing careers among local area youth with the long-term goals of filling the talent pipeline as well as combating local skills gaps and dwindling enrollments in college-level technical training. Read More »

Creating a Team Environment to Attract and Retain

Lincoln, NE | Population: 258,379

Lincoln Industries/Lincoln Chrome evolved from a small metal plating shop in the 1950s to a large-scale manufacturer of finishing-intensive metal components. A family-owned business, Lincoln Industries’ success stems from the talents and skills of its people (employees) to innovate and provide clients customized solutions for difficult aesthetic and functional metal finishing requirements. The company has grown to over 500 people with 30 on-staff degreed engineers, and it continues to expand its core products and services. Because of its close-knit atmosphere and strong commitment to its people, the company has been named one of the 25 Best Medium Companies to Work For in America six times. Read More »

Upskilling Workers via Manufacturing Bootcamp

Cuming County, NE | Population: 9,125

Cuming County, located in eastern Nebraska, needed more welders. This was especially true in the county’s trade center, West Point. The community had several local manufacturers, but the lack of welders was impeding business growth. When people did apply for positions, many had low-level employability skills and a clear lack of general manufacturing experience. Read More »

County Led Collaborative for Youth

Custer County, NE | Population: 10,728

Custer County Economic Development had been spearheading a local career day since 2010. It was a good start to help students explore career opportunities, but the interactions with local employers were sporadic.  With increasing workforce demand, the group felt this was an area where they could improve. Read More »

Incorporating Soft Skills Training

Sioux Falls, SD | Population: 164,676

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota. In the last 10 years, the population of the Sioux Falls area has grown twice as fast as the rest of South Dakota and the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. From 2010 to 2013, the number of emigrants has doubled. In addition to the population growth, the Sioux Falls area added about 10,000 jobs between 2009 and 2014. Read More »

Drive for Five: 500 New Employees in Five Years

Columbus, NE | Population: 22,533

Columbus had jobs — what it needed was more employees. This was not a new situation — it was an ongoing issue that was becoming more acute each year. In 2006-2007, the “Drive for Five” initiative was created as a way to coordinate the hiring needs of the community. Read More »

Virtual Workforce Opportunities in Healthcare

Virtual Health Services | Population: Nationwide

The shortage of rural health care professionals is a well-documented issue. One metric that clearly shows this dynamic is the number of primary care physicians per 100,000 residents. In rural areas, there are 68 physicians and in urban areas there are 84 physicians per 100,000 residents (Distribution of U.S. Health Care Providers Residing in Rural and Urban Areas, National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, 2014.). Other industries can adjust production to meet constraints; however, in the health care arena, service demand is driven by patients and their location. Read More »

Welcoming Foreign Workers

Huron, SD | Population: 13,097

Dakota Provisions, a cooperatively owned, state-of-the-art turkey processing facility, needed workers when it opened for production in December 2005 in Huron, South Dakota. The company tried hiring enough local workers, but the labor demand was not being met. On a recruiting trip to Minneapolis, the human resources director met some Karen refugees who had fled political persecution in Burma (Myanmar), and he realized that Karen refugees might help fulfill the labor shortage. After only a few years, Karen individuals were holding one of every nine jobs in Beadle County. Read More »


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