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ACCE Economic Mobility for Rural Workers cohort

ACCE Economic Mobility for Rural Workers cohort

On Monday, June 12, 2023, the Association for Chamber of Commerce Executives' (ACCE) Association Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted a highly informative webinar as part of its Economic Mobility for Rural Workers cohort.

The engaging virtual event featured Danielle O'Conner, Director of Talent Initiatives, of the Greater Naples Chamber, as one of the cohort presenters. As the Director of Talent Initiatives, she spearheads innovative workforce development strategies that bridge the gap between employers and local talent to create a local talent pipeline. 

In rural areas, silos are a common sight. While the structures are excellent for storage, communities that work in silos to address issues may not move the needle. Chambers of commerce are uniquely suited to build and support cross-sector coalitions that lead to sustained business engagement in education and workforce development. They can support connections between postsecondary education providers, learners and employers to ensure that rural learners have clear pathways to well-paid employment without relocating. 

That’s why the ACCE Foundation, with support from Ascendium Education Philanthropy, selected 10 to 12 chambers that serve rural areas to implement a specific model to help place low-income, rural learners in good-paying jobs. The Economic Mobility for Rural Workers Cohort will support the selected chambers as they address these challenges. 

ACCE Foundation will provide technical assistance, consulting support, peer learning opportunities and connections to content experts. The cohort of 11 communities will be divided into four subgroups to pilot strategies to address needs and support outcomes for low-income rural workers to secure well-paid jobs. Participants will track the number of low-income workers placed in well-paid jobs and the average wage increase for participating learners. Participants will also measure progress toward strengthening community relationships throughout the cohort.

With a focus on workforce development efforts through work-based learning, Danielle shared valuable insights on engaging businesses in their work-based learning efforts, and core concepts of work-based learning and its potential to drive economic mobility in rural communities.

Drawing from her experience at the Greater Naples Chamber, she provided real-world examples of successful initiatives and outlined the crucial role that businesses play in shaping work-based learning programs. Also discussed were the successes and challenges faced by the Greater Naples Chamber throughout this work.

The webinar explored various opportunities and future goals in the realm of work-based learning, shedding light on the metrics and evaluation strategies employed to measure progress. Danielle also highlighted the diverse funding sources that have supported their impactful work.

In her closing remarks, Danielle shared key takeaways from her work and imparted wisdom gained through her experiences. She touched upon the important lessons she wished she had known sooner, providing valuable guidance to those seeking to make a positive impact in their field.

The webinar not only deepened the participants' understanding of work-based learning and its potential for rural economic and workforce development but also served as an inspiration for further collaboration and innovation in this crucial domain.

To learn more about Danielle's work or to get more involved with talent initiatives, contact her at

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