Utah State University Extension recently received a $1.1 Million grant from the Economic Development Administration to support further development of the Rural Online Initiative program.
The Utah State University Rural Online Initiative Program provides rural communities with the resources, education, and training to maximize their workforce potential. First developed in 2018, the Rural Online Initiative began by offering a Master Remote Work Professional (MRWP) certificate and has since expanded to offer a Master Remote Work Leader (MRWL) certificate. Both the MRWP and MRWL programs are one-month certificate courses that teach participants the skills necessary to succeed in a remote work environment. The MRWL course, piloted in February 2020, provides training to organizational leaders on best practices and core skills needed when creating a remote work environment or leading a hybrid-remote staff.
Initially designed for businesses located along the Wasatch Front, both the Master Remote Work Professional and Model Remote Work Leader courses have seen tremendous success in the Southwest Region, specifically Beaver, Garfield, Iron and Washington Counties.
“In 2020, our remote work certification courses led to the creation of 167 new remote job placements in rural counties, which is equivalent to the economic impact of over 6,154 jobs in urban counties,” Said USU Extension Vice President Ken White in an EDA Press Release. The ROI Program has provided job placement for 55 individuals within the Southwest Region alone, spurring a tremendous impact in these low population rural areas. This job growth is equivalent to the economic impact of 1,465 jobs in urban counties.
The ROI Program proved to be particularly timely during the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic in early 2020. Paul Hill, ROI Program Director and Extension Professor explained how the ROI Program will help support businesses and local leaders in the post-pandemic workforce landscape. “Our research found that most U.S. organizations that implemented remote work in response to the pandemic considered the experience favorable,” Hill said. “We know from theory that a positive experience with an innovation on a trial basis increases the likelihood of adoption in the future. Ultimately, remote work reached a tipping point during COVID-19 and is here to stay. This means that businesses are evolving from being designed for the collective to being personalized to every individual. This specialized training program will coach business leaders through effectively developing remote work plans for their organizations so they can thrive in the future of work.”