Gateway Regional Workforce Development Plan

The Gateway Area Development District (GADD) engaged Boyette Strategic Advisors (Boyette) to complete a regional workforce development planning initiative to quantify the primary and emerging economic sectors within the region, while qualifying the region’s workforce assets and labor market competitiveness. The study was funded through a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Not only did this initiative strive to nurture and enhance the region’s dynamic workforce, but also will prepare the region to quickly respond to economic shifts that significantly impact the workforce. While the region has historically thrived on legacy industry sectors such as agriculture, coal mining, and manufacturing, this transitional-focused workforce development and talent pipeline enhancement initiative has evaluated and uncovered a variety of data points.

Every workforce study presents unique opportunities and challenges that demand a custom approach. This study includes nine Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) counties of Bath, Carter, Elliot, Fleming, Lewis, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, and Rowan, all of which are designated as distressed or at-risk by the ARC. Economic challenges such as the sensitivity of the Coal Industry Ecosystem (CIE) and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with low per-capita income levels, fluctuating unemployment rates, and low labor participation have all been considered in this project.

The project was launched in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unusual economic disruptions that accompanied it. At that time, unemployment rates were high as a result of lockdowns that caused companies to close for a period of time if they were not deemed essential, along with fear of the highly contagious virus among workers who were expected to continue working. Since that time, there have been peaks and valleys resulting from virus surges; but the economy has stabilized, with low unemployment rates and many businesses struggling to find employees to fill openings as people have opted to leave the workforce completely. The following goals were established for this project at the time the project was launched:

  • Identify primary economic sectors and recent shifts within them;
  • Determine drivers for regional economic development;
  • Measure workforce capacity for existing and emergent sectors;
  • Identify potential impacts on existing and emergent sectors;
  • Recommend workforce development strategies to support existing and emergent sectors;
  • Determine skills transferability opportunities and re-skilling needs; and
  • Mitigate impacts on the Coal Industry Ecosystem.