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Rural Matters

Jul 20, 2021

In Part III of this eight-part series on rural higher education and workforce development, produced in collaboration with and underwritten by Ascendium Education Group, Michelle chats with John Fitzsimmons, president of The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges; David Daigler.  president of the Maine Community College System; Justin Archer Burch., national director of Workforce Development at Rural LISC; and Francie Genz, co-principal of the Institute for Networked Communities. Fitzsimmons describes the five basic components of the Foundation’s groundbreaking remote work program: skills training for jobs that can be performed remotely, certificates in the essential skills to be an effective remote worker, a certificate in leading a team remotely, a digital resource library, and a three-credit course in remote work. According to Fitzsimmons, there will come a day when a course in remote work will be an essential component of many academic business programs. About 95 percent of Maine is rural, notes Daigler, and these rural communities have unique challenges in engaging in college life. So it’s important to bring job opportunities directly to rural residents, according to Daigler. Burch discusses how Rural Works addresses equity issues.  including poverty, and the importance of forming a national intermediary to aggregate the initiatives of  major foundations in the rural space and to enable rural resident to “live in place.” Genz explains how her organization brings businesses together from the same industry sector to collaborate with community leaders in making their industry more competitive and building stronger connections between people and jobs. The goal is to create a table where public and private sectors can work effectively together, building stronger regional economies and helping more people get good jobs where they live.  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