Rural jobs bill passes Senate Ways and Means Committee with bipartisan support, aims to help close skills gap

Rural economic development continues to be a significant public policy concern. We’ve written about the issue often (recently here). So we wanted to point out a rural jobs bill is moving through the Legislature this session. The Lens reports,

The Senate Ways and Means Committee has sent to the Rules Committee HB 2177, which would create the rural county high employer demand jobs program. The initiative would use public-private matched funds to help students earn degrees or certificates in high-demand fields.

During the proposal’s public hearing, State Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-40) told colleagues the measure was expanded to include rural school districts in addition to rural counties. This change was brought forward based on stakeholder and lawmaker concern that certain counties would be excluded based on the how the legislation defines “rural.”

The measure, in a slightly different form, has already passed the House.

As the bill report shows, the measure received strong bipartisan approval. The measure also had backing from rural employers.

Jason Callahan, Director of Public Relations for the Washington Forest Protection Association, testified that the bill would indeed benefit rural communities.

“It allows the local community colleges to look into the communities to see what the job demand needs are and then allow the private employers in those counties to match that need and create a program where the local communities are being supported….”

There are magic bullets for building rural economies. One key factor, however, is making sure students in rural communities have access to the education and training required by local employers.