How Digital Works is Improving Economic Growth in Rural Communities

Grants, New Mexico (June 28, 2018) – It can be difficult to find a job in rural America. There are few brick-and-mortar opportunities for those who want to stay close to their families and provide for their children or themselves. As a result, many are forced to move to larger cities and leave behind the quiet life they know and love, causing many of America’s small towns to slowly dwindle.

But, remote work is now a viable option for parents, young adults, retirees, veterans, and others living in remote areas across the U.S. thanks, in part, to the Digital Works (DW) program established by Connected Nation in 2013.

Digital Works is a smarter workforce development program that provides employer-specific training for teleworkers. It is now being leveraged in Cibola County, NM, where it’s already proving to be effective for those looking to stay in their small communities.

“My family, friends, and house are here. I want to stay home, that is very important to me,” said Sarah Peña, a recent graduate. “I’m so lucky to have found this program that allows me to work from home and provide for my family.”

Digital Works provides direct support and training for the county’s SoloWorks program.  State officials say they’re providing financial support for the program not only because it directly impacts families and individuals who take the classes, but because it helps the communities where they live and work.

“We see this work as an opportunity to expand our economic tax base through our remote workers who are securing employment with people who are out of state, bringing new money into the county to help expand that tax base,” said Eileen Chavez Yarborough, Executive Director, Cibalo County Economic Development Foundation.

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The Personal Effect

Peña’s past work experience took her all over the state. She spent most of her time traveling long distances for jobs in hospitals and later at a prison in Los Lunas, NM.  After retirement, she was looking for ways to make money and keep herself occupied.

“There is only so much you can do, I just started getting bored,” said Peña. “I needed something more, so I contacted SoloWorks, which helped me see how I could transfer my past experience into a new way of working. Plus, now I can start a fund for my grandchildren and do everything I need because I have the extra money.”

SoloWorks trains participants like Peña to become remote workers in tech services and customer relations. The participants get experience in answering calls, typing, résumé writing, and they learn how to transfer previous skills to their new work.

The state gives Cibalo County between $3,500 to $5,000 for each person trained and placed into a remote job — many of which are based out of the state. In return, the development foundation oversees the training and is providing a center for classes. It is also giving graduates access to new resources, including work space to rent and high-speed internet.

“The SoloWorks program does more than just the training,” said William Yarborough, a SoloWorks graduate. “It’s the support even after graduation and giving me a place to work. The amenities here are nice. There is always someone to talk to, especially if I want to advance in the job.”

Like Peña, many people in Cibola County have to drive long distances for work, sometimes even out of state. Having the option to work remotely creates more jobs right in the area. In essence, it’s an effective way of redistributing jobs into smaller communities while providing a workforce trained in skills that employers need.

“This is an opportunity that allows you to work at home, and it’s here in our community. It’s right now, and it’s what we need,” said Samuel Jack, another SoloWorks participant.

To learn how you can leverage Digital Works in your community for programs like SoloWorks, head to digitalworksjobs.com.

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