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State approves $3 million to invest in rural initiatives

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