In recognition of the need to better understand the challenges facing rural communities, JWCC secured a grant from IGEN and commissioned THG Advisors (THG) to develop the report to examine opportunities for creating positive regional impact. A key part in the overall development of the report involved interviews with a broad range of regional stakeholders to gain a practitioner’s perspective on conditions, issues, and concerns. A pre-recorded webinar is being offered in conjunction with the release of this report for on-demand viewing.
The webinar presentation focuses on an overview of challenges and opportunities facing today’s agricultural producers, their contribution to the regional economy, local and external influencing factors affecting rural areas, and workforce opportunities and readiness. The webinar also reflects on the report’s findings, conclusions, and provides recommendations regarding strategies to support increasing the rural workforce and career possibilities. Following an overview of the report, the webinar shifts to a moderated discussion among a panel of seasoned practitioners from various disciplines regarding their own observations regarding barriers and opportunities. The webinar audience will learn about the report’s treatment and accounting of innovative practices and provide potential policies and practices that could be pursued to inform the creation of new workforce career pathways and considerations to gain insights on developing a roadmap to improve economic opportunity for the people of the region.
The report and accompanying webinar are intended to assist educators, agricultural producers and advisors, community leaders, local and regional community development organizations, and rural policymakers. The information provided should also prove instructive to those preparing, placing, and retaining the next generation of rural professionals. The content is regionally applicable to the existing condition and recovery of the nine-county corridor along the lower 80 miles of the Illinois River, which includes the rural core of the JWCC service area and is also relevant to all rural areas across the state.
JWCC President Michael Elbe said, “the report’s findings provide valuable information and insights to enhance our rural agricultural economy. Community colleges provide the capacity to develop and build viable partnerships as we create together new generations of farm operators, owners and other rural careers in our service area.”
Patrick McGinnis, Executive Director of the Lower Illinois River-Rural Prosperity Initiative and advisor to the reporting team, stressed that “rural communities, particularly those largely dependent on agriculture, face numerous challenges from the impacts of climate, lack of workforce, trade and economic policy. The development of collaborative networks led or assisted by capacity-building institutions like community colleges contribute to applied approaches to activate economic and livability strategies for rural communities and regions. This rapid assessment project on behalf of JWCC and IGEN could lay the groundwork for a timely response to evolving regional workforce challenges and rural quality of life opportunities.”
To access the report and webinar recording, visit: www.jwcc.edu/IGEN.
Inquiries may be directed to David Hetzler, Interim Dean of Career and Technical Education at John Wood Community College at firstname.lastname@example.org.