Shalayne Smith Needham: Since 2018, USU Extension has offered the Rural Online Initiative to help connect residents of rural Utah to jobs. Dr. Paul Hill is the program director for the Rural Online Initiative.
First, tell us more about the rural online initiative.
Paul Hill: Well, the rural online initiative was funded through a legislative appropriation in 2018, so long before COVID-19. It's an innovative, really forward-thinking USU extension program that's really designed to prepare Utah's rural workforce for the future of work.
SSN: How has COVID-19 affected participation in this program?
PH: Well, our focus is currently on connecting people in rural Utah with remote work opportunities, as well as helping urban organizational leaders and business and government adapt and adopt remote work and provide more remote-friendly jobs to people in rural Utah. That's been our focus. We used to spend a lot of time convincing people that, you know, remote work is a good strategy that is an effective way to continue to get work done, despite disruptions.
SSN: We talked about this a little bit outside of the Coronavirus. Why should people in rural Utah choose remote work?
PH: Beyond just the opportunity that remote work provides in many instances, you can earn a higher income, you can save money by not commuting long distances. Many of the data shows that people in rural Utah often commute outside their county for work.
We believe that talent is evenly distributed throughout the state. There's amazing talent in rural Utah as well as urban, but the opportunities aren't evenly distributed. And so remote work provides an opportunity for their career is based on their skill sets. There are so many more opportunities when you can leverage the power of the internet and our broadband infrastructure.
SSN: If people are interested in learning more about this program, where can they find more information?
PH: Well, if you go to remoteworkcertificate.com, you can look at our courses. We have a professional course for anyone in rural Utah, or really anyone across the state that's interested in gaining the skills they need to be a proficient remote worker, as well as learning how to find legitimate remote jobs. And then we also have a leadership course. And these are master certificates from USU extension that you can put on your resume and show that you have these skill sets.