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KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee proposal to teach technology skills on the Cumberland Plateau has been chosen for Vice President Al Gore’s new 21st Century Skills Community Network.

The network is a new initiative to advance education, skills, training and lifelong learning for adults.

Dr. Dena Wise, a family economist with the UT Agricultural Extension Service, developed the proposal working with Leadership Upper Cumberland, a group formed to help counties on the plateau develop the region’s resources. The group grew out of efforts of Jack McDaniel, a resource-development specialist with the Extension Service.

“We plan to teach computer skills to help rural residents prepare for the job market,” Wise said, “but we also want to help towns of the Upper Cumberland improve their infrastructure so they can attract technology businesses.”

Counties involved in the proposal are Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Scott, Smith, Trousdale, Van Buren, Warren and White counties.

“Our greatest untapped source of employees is rural America,” Wise said. “Urban employers often have difficulty finding employees in cities where the unemployment rate is only 4 percent. With today’s technology, more and more businesses find they can successfully relocate to rural areas.”

The federal network will help the Extension program identify grants and loans and support its applications for aid. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education will work with the new network.

The network grew out of a summit on 21st century skills held by the vice president in January 1999.