Tech employment in rural America

What is the state of tech employment in rural communities? What are rural employers looking for in a tech workforce, and what types of tech training programs are most helpful to get learners and workers through the door? And how are aspiring tech workers learning about local opportunities? 

These questions were at the heart of a nearly year-long research endeavor at the Center on Rural Innovation, made possible through funding from Ascendium Education Group. This work involved two national surveys, a labor market data analysis, and more than 50 interviews with tech employers, training providers, workers, and learners. The work is part of an effort to understand how tech-based innovation and job growth can strengthen rural economies, communities, and households — and to identify what local leaders are doing to make the tech field more accessible to a greater array of people across geographies and income levels. 

The resulting report reveals that there four central themes common across rural tech ecosystems when it comes to tech employment and training:
  • The role of employers is critical: Rural employers in non-tech industries employ a significant portion of rural residents — yet they could be employing more because they are understaffing people in tech roles. 
  • Rural Americans are interested in tech: Rural residents express a high level of interest in tech jobs and careers, but people who have more awareness of and exposure to tech work are more likely to act on that interest. 
  • Rural tech workers take a variety of paths into the field: Rural learners and employers benefit from having access to a combination of different training methods and programs to develop tech skills that meet industry needs. 
  • Lowering barriers for rural learners is essential: Rural learners find that the two largest barriers to tech training are cost and time commitment — and lowering these barriers helps to grow and diversify the talent pool. 

Through this work, we strive to provide knowledge and recommendations to policymakers, funders, training providers, and leaders at the local and national levels around how to address the supply of and the demand for tech talent in rural communities.

Read the report:

Learn More

The Center on Rural Innovation hosted a webinar to further discuss findings from this report. If you would like to watch for the webinar, click the link below: