Understanding & Improving Employment Skills

Buidlings Employee Meeting Residential Homes

RaEDA is working with rural communities to strengthen their economies, provide better quality of life to residents, and build on assets such as basic employment skills. Whereas rural is difficult to define, a rural community in a relatively high-population state can look dramatically different from a similarly sized rural community in a less populous state.

One definition cited by the USDA Economic Research Service describes rural areas as non-metropolitan counties. By this definition, nearly two-thirds of the nations and 3,142 counties are rural, and rural communities comprise 17 percent of the population (49 million people) and about 80 percent of the country's total land area. However, these statistics, while important, do not describe the interaction between communities and their surrounding landscapes that is an integral part to understanding the challenges and opportunities in rural areas. Rural communities and small towns can thrive only if there are employment opportunities that support a good standard of living. While rural incomes may be substantially lower than those in metropolitan areas, rural regions possess unique resources and opportunities for economic development.

Typically, job development is constrained by the reactive methods traditionally employed in the field. Even today, many job developers are taught to review the labor market and test people with disabilities to see if they fit within the current economic environment. In areas of high commercial activity, this approach may work well enough to reinforce its premise. But in typical markets (and especially in depressed markets), this reactive approach to job development simplify labels people with severe disabilities as unemployable. In rural areas (and urban, too), people get jobs through various networks of association, and by being competitive in the workplace.