The Northeastern Oklahoma Regional Alliance was one of five national communities selected to participate in The Council for Adult Experiential Learning’s Inclusive Development Network. This ambitious new initiative was designed to advance inclusive workforce development within their regions through a focus on reaching underserved populations.

Northeastern Oklahoma was selected from more than 35 applications for the Network's first cohort of communities. Also tapped were Cleveland, Ohio; Corpus Christi, Texas; Spokane, Washington; and Pensacola, Florida.

"Although our economy is growing, segments of our communities are still struggling with poverty, wage stagnation and underemployment. In local economic development, a focus on working adults and inclusivity can help ensure that every member of the community has the opportunity to thrive," said CAEL President Marie A. Cini. "Each of the communities selected for the Network will help build and scale an inclusive new approach to workforce development."

Backed by grants from ECMC Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Inclusive Development Network will work to identify and implement strategies that reduce equity gaps in local workforce development. Participating communities were selected based on their geography and size, as well as their existing and proposed reach with underserved populations.

Within Northeast Oklahoma, a leadership team has been assembled that includes representatives from local institutions, including government agencies, tribal nations, career tech, colleges and universities, employers, and community organizations. Through a specialized planning process facilitated by CAEL, the teams will hone inclusive workforce development strategies to create education, job and career opportunities for all residents. Initial lead organizations include the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, the Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance, the FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance and Greater Spokane Incorporated.

“NORA is extremely pleased to have been selected as one of the participants in the inaugural Inclusive Development Network project,” said NORA Executive Director Lisa Smith. “By collaborating with stakeholders and community leaders across Northeast Oklahoma, we will use this unique framework to develop and strengthen the pipeline of available workforce and grow our regional economy.”

Based on the data received to date through the Inclusive Development Network process, NORA will look to focus on Native American and female populations, specifically targeting those lacking services and facing challenges with being under-employed, having been justice-involved, or lacking skills-based training to obtain gainful employment. Strategies from the grant are currently being developed, and will look to be implemented in early 2020 throughout Cherokee, Mayes, Muskogee, Rogers and Wagoner counties.

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