Word on the Street: Workforce Concerns in Rural Communities

December 6, 2022 Patricia Stanley

Workforce issues are becoming critical in rural areasI regularly talk to C-Suite executives at companies of different sizes all over the country as part of my job and many have felt some sort of hit during the workforce crisis of the past couple of years, but especially since COVID-19. One of the major concerns I and my colleagues have heard from them as we emerged from the pandemic is their growing difficulty finding people to fill open positions and challenges retaining existing employees.

Where are the qualified workers?

This question is most often asked by small- to medium-sized companies in rural communities, especially in Manufacturing and other industries that need employees with specific trade skills. Interest has also been waning in many physically demanding job types since well before the pandemic.

In order to keep their companies operating and, ideally, growing, many companies located in rural communities are becoming more proactive when it comes to building and retaining their workforce. They understand that it’s time to “put their pioneering hat on” and think about ways to promote and support the local workforce so they can maximize their growth opportunities.

Many of these companies already offer good-paying jobs that may especially appeal to young people just entering the workforce who have no plans to go to college. But how does a company go about tapping into this potential labor pool before they all move out of the area or find other jobs? Companies that are looking for workforce stability and are willing to invest in training and retaining their workforce are finding that one solution to this problem is to make investments in their communities that will help them achieve their goals and increase the size of the local talent pool.

What should those investments be? Some companies are inviting local high schools, trade schools, and community colleges to work with them more proactively to promote apprenticeship opportunities for students. They are promoting involvement with parents, schools, and education systems and are seeking ways to help build communities with built-in talent resources and more attractive reasons for young people to stay after graduation and for new people to move to the area.

At Camoin Associates, we have seen many small businesses close their doors not only because of the pandemic but also because they cannot run without the right workforce. It takes an entire community to build and promote local opportunities for prosperity. It is time for community pioneers (elected officials, educators, business owners, labor union leaders, parents, and other community leaders) to take action, collaborate, and innovate to ensure a stable future for their children and their economy.

Learn more about Camoin Associates’ lead generation, business attraction and retention, and workforce analytics services.