Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Rural Matters

Aug 18, 2021

In Part IV of our landmark eight-part series on rural higher education and workforce development, produced in collaboration with and underwritten by the Ascendium Education Group, Michelle chats with an intriguing panel immersed in issues involving the digital rural economy, including Sarah Cacicio, Senior Project Director of Adult Learning at Digital Promise; Cindy Lopez,  Executive Director of Network Engagement at Achieving the Dream; Meredith Hatch, Director, Network Relations at Achieving the Dream; and Mark Rembert, the Director of the Rural Innovation Network at the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI). Almost three-fourths of jobs require at least a minimal degree of digital skills, notes Rembert. There are opportunities for rural residents in this economic transformation, but traditionally rural workers have worked in positions that don’t require that a high degree of digital skills, he adds. CORI is a national nonprofit advancing inclusive rural prosperity through digital economy ecosystems that support scalable entrepreneurship and tech job creation. One way they do that is by focused on developing entrepreneurial programs and working with education institutions to offer digital opportunities in rural areas. Hatch describes how Achieving the Dream is building resiliency in rural areas, by  facilitating program analysis and peer learning that will support adoption of  digital skill-building programs. Those initiatives include coding, cybersecurity, and other training programs to help residents adapt to the digital economy.  Indeed, colleges are now leading the change to create local digital economies in sync with the national economy, says Lopez. This involves partnering with local, regional, and national businesses and investing in training their own faculties on digital skills, she adds. Lopez notes that it’s also critical to expand broadband capabilities in rural communities to enable economic opportunity. Cacicio describes Digital Promise’s adult learning initiative, which is currently researching the use of  micro-credentials (digital certifications that verify learners’ skills) in postsecondary rural communities. Micro-credentials open up opportunities for learners to earn and verify their skills, and have the potential to mitigate existing biases. It’s important to get the learner’s perspectives on micro-credentials and adult learning, she adds. This episode and the entire series on rural higher education and workforce development is sponsored by Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization committed to helping learners from low-income backgrounds reach their educational and career goals.  For more information, visit