Rural Voice: How to educate and attract the next generation of rural workers

People in a circle talk02
Students and community members from the University of Wisconsin River Falls campus gathered on Sept. 26 to talk about equipping the next generation of rural workers at a special Rural Voice town hall, moderated by MPR News host Kerri Miller.
Courtesy Kelly Smith

For decades now, rural populations have been shrinking. Much of that is attributed to young people who leave their hometowns to go to college and never return, a phenomenon known as “the brain drain.”

But post-pandemic, those trends are poised to reverse. Thank to remote work, students today say they can envision a future where they can stay in rural America and build a career. But is higher education ready to train this workforce?

That’s the topic MPR News host Kerri Miller took to the University of Wisconsin River Falls last month for a Rural Voice town hall. There, she heard stories, suggestions and frustrations as students, faculty and community leaders discussed how to prepare the next generation of workers who want to start and stay in rural America.

This is the final installment in a four-part series featuring conversations from the Rural Voice project — a series of town halls hosted by Miller in communities across the state about the rewards and challenges of making a home in rural America.

Past conversations include how to support rural entrepreneurship, how to create more affordable housing and the crisis of mental health care in rural areas.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.