Skillful develops a playbook to help rural communities adopt skills-based practices

We are excited to release the Skillful Rural Playbook, a guide to eight promising human-centered, community-focused, and skills-based strategies that emerged from Skillful’s West End initiative. These strategies were instrumental to the region's adoption of skills-based practices and were used to assist displaced workers and create economic opportunity in Colorado’s West End.  

About the West End Initiative

The West End initiative made possible through a partnership between Skillful, a Markle Foundation initiative, and the Telluride Foundation. Skillful is dedicated to enabling all American workers - particularly those without a four-year college degree – to secure good jobs in a changing economy. The West End initiative aimed to support workers in the West End rural area of Southwest Colorado who were being displaced due to the closure of the local power plant and coal mine. The initiative provided a practical approach that complimented the efforts of local and regional workforce development activities to meet urgent needs in a community with the core goal of connecting job seekers to local, emerging industries and businesses.

The core strategy for this initiative was the placement of a local orchestrator who acted, amongst other roles, as a lead career coach, community connector, and project manager. The orchestrator advocated for and trained local stakeholders in the use of skills-based practices to facilitate the connection between local job seekers and emerging opportunities.

Overview of the Skillful Rural Playbook:

This initiative became a valuable, locally driven resource for job seekers in the West End of Montrose County. Job seekers were provided coaching and support towards obtaining employment, which included a cover letter and resume writing assistance, participation in mock interviews, and mentoring support. This provided job seekers in the West End with skills-based coaching services emphasizing an understanding of their skills and the transferability of those skills to emerging opportunities. For Tanya Narramore, a job seeker who was laid off from a job she had for 15 years at the New Horizon coal mine, working with Carla Reams, the Program Manager of the Skillful West End Project, was key to her success in finding new employment. Of her experience with the Skillful West End Project, Tanya said,

“For people who will be losing their jobs at the power plant, or for anyone who may need help in applying for a job, I highly recommend that they work with Carla—she can help connect them to job and training opportunities. She was a huge help.”

Strategies include:

  • Empowering a local orchestrator
  • Understanding the declining industry
  • Understanding the displaced workers
  • Working in and supplement the local infrastructure
  • Developing a community basis of action
  • Skills-based career coaching
  • Encouraging skills-based practices for employers
  • Enacting program marketing and communication strategy

By releasing this playbook, we hope these strategies can be replicated and applied in other rural communities throughout Colorado to create better pathways for workers and a skills-based approach to workforce development in the local area.

To learn more about the outcomes of the West End initiative and the promising strategies that lead to them, view the Skillful Rural Playbook.