USU Extension singled out both Nationally and Regionally for Awards in implementing Utah’s Rural Online Initiative.
Utah State University Extension’s Rural Online Initiative (ROI) program was recently the recipient of two awards. First was recognition from the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals. The group recognized USU for developing an outstanding program and for their efforts to integrate innovation and creativity into community development programs.
The 2020 Western Extension Directors Association Award of Excellence also goes to the USU Extension program. This award recognizes Extension outreach education programming for achieving outstanding accomplishments, results and impacts in addressing contemporary issues in one or more of the 13 Western states or Pacific Island US Territories.
The awards are a result of the University’s ability to implement training and certifications that funding from the Utah State Legislature set up in 2018 to help residents of rural Utah become part of the online workforce. The Rural Online Initiative has a goal of training and providing the tools necessary for individuals to become successful in freelance, remote or e-commerce entrepreneurship.
In San Juan County records indicate that 53 enrolled in the program and 27 have graduated with a certificate from USU Extension so far. Of those who have kept in contact, 2 are working in the freelance world and one has become an entrepreneur with the skills acquired from the program.
Paul Hill, USU Extension professor and program director of the Rural Online Initiative claims the program has grown significantly in the last 2 years and is now assisting hundreds of individuals. The school offers a Master Remote Work Professional certification upon completion. Statewide, 849 people have completed the course requirements and earned the professional certification from USU Extension.
Between October 2018 and November 2019, the ROI program served 15 rural Utah counties. As of this writing the program has seen nearly a quarter of it’s certificate holders move into remote work professionally. Although to the casual observer those numbers might seem low, this is significant. Studies have shown that the impact of one good paying job in a rural setting has the equivalent impact of over 25 jobs in an urban area or higher density population center.
The Covid-19 crisis also had an effect on the program. The ROI program took in a number of participants who were adjusting to mandatory remote work policies. All course fees were waived for the 239 additional participants from urban Utah counties. In addition to the courses, workshops were held to help those needing the basic skills in implementing video conferences.
USU Extensions vice president Ken White expressed his view of the program. “ We are extremely fortunate to have this innovative rural online program in our state, especially during this time when working from home is a necessity for so many.”
According to White the team from USU Extension created a program that is making significant financial and environmental impacts in Utah. And as the awards indicate, the program is also being used as a role model in other states. White cites this fact in making the claim that the impacts of this team are far-reaching.
In addition to the USU Extension programs discussed, a Master Remote Work Leader certificate course is also offered for supervisors and managers. USU Extension reports that there were 20 graduates of that program in April. 70% percent said they were likely to create remote work positions in their organization and hire qualified rural Utah residents.
For more information on the ROI program, visit https://remoteworkcertificate.com/.