U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted Friday that education is at the core of all efforts to promote economic development in rural America, echoing a theme that has appeared numerous times in reports by The Independent.
“A well educated work force is critical to a thriving business — to developing new ways of producing goods and providing services. And companies don’t want to locate in rural communities if they can’t guarantee workers with the skills they need,” said Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa.
Education, he notes, doesn’t just stop with “critically important” K-12 education. Post-high school education is becoming more essential to long-term success, both for the individual obtaining the degree and for the communities in which that individual lives.
“We are investing in community colleges and have increased the size of Pell Grants that help nearly 10 million students attend college each year,” he said. “And we are helping turn around low-performing rural schools so they can recruit and retain the best teachers.”
Rural students should have the tools they need to succeed, he noted, adding that the USDA is “focused on connecting rural schools to broadband internet and distance learning opportunities.” At the same time, the agency is encouraging new industries and businesses in small towns, so that new graduates have ample opportunity to remain in their communities.
Listen to Vilsack discuss the importance of education for rural communities below: