Workforce options have changed in rural areas since the pandemic

Mar 1, 2023, 7:00 PM

Western Governors University recently concluded a study which delved into Lightcast’s job-listing...

Western Governors University recently concluded a study which delved into Lightcast’s job-listing data from the past five years in rural areas. Photo credit: Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Western Governors University recently concluded a study which delved into Lightcast’s job-listing data from the past five years in rural areas. The study examined what job changes were made during and after the pandemic.

Rural areas of Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Colorado were the focus for the research.

Since many companies shifted to at work-at-home during the pandemic, this brought new opportunities to rural areas. Over the past five years, Heath Care and STEM jobs have been on the rise in these areas. Health Care employment opportunities make up a large percentage of job listings in these states. With the highest percentage of 50.6% in Oregon and the lowest at 15.1% in Utah. 

The economy and rural areas

However, more job postings are asking for a bachelor’s degree and in-person work. According to the study, 80% to 90% of the job listings wanted in-person and local employees. Additionally, 33% of the job listings required a bachelor’s degree.

“Rural economies, once dominated by agriculture, are now more diverse, with talent working across health care, education services, retail, manufacturing, finance and more.” said Betheny Gross, the director of research for WGU Labs.

Although there are many exciting and new opportunities for rural communities the pressure of having a bachelor’s degree is also high. WGU has made a new scholarship to help those in rural areas pursue a degree. The Learn Where You Live Scholarship will aid students up to $750 for a six-month term.

“The rural community is the backbone of our economy.”  said Tonya Drake, regional vice president of WGU. She continues to say that WGU is excited for what the future holds. WGU is eager to help those in rural areas achieve their goals. 

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Workforce options have changed in rural areas since the pandemic