To help strengthen and expand workforce development programs in Tennessee’s rural counties, the Tennessee Workforce Development Board recently approved a $3 million investment to support Governor Bill Lee’s rural initiatives.
The Rural Initiative Funding Opportunity Announcement (RIFOA) will make monies available to local workforce development boards over the next three years.
“Our hope is this investment will help to ensure workers in our rural counties have the opportunity and resources to enhance their economic circumstances through education and skill development,” said Deniece Thomas, Deputy Commissioner with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD).
Tennessee’s distressed, at-risk, and rural counties face workforce challenges that do not exist in the state’s urban and metropolitan areas.
Often, local leaders in rural counties are forced to navigate workforce obstacles such as geography, demography and high demand for employees, but a low supply of a qualified workforce.
The goal of the RIFOA is to increase workforce funding in local workforce development areas that contain distressed and at-risk counties. New programs will create greater opportunity for residents in these counties to take part in skills training in high-demand growth sectors. These programs will also include work-based models such as on-the-job training.
“Members of the State Workforce Development Board come from every corner of Tennessee,” said board chairman Tim Berry. “They know firsthand the workforce development needs in the rural areas many of them call home. This additional funding will have a high impact on the communities that receive it.”
Expanded workforce development opportunities will originate from American Job Centers in selected counties to allow for easier access to programs and services.
Money for the RIFOA will come from the Governor’s reserve of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity (WIOA) funds. TDLWD will provide additional program guidance to the local workforce development boards deemed eligible to receive this funding.
The State will send a funding opportunity notification to the Local Workforce Development Areas in the coming weeks. Leadership in those areas will need to submit a budget and budget narrative before the state allocates the ROFIA funding.
Editor’s Note: The state has designated fifteen counties as distressed, Cannon County is not one of those.