Teleworks USA announced in March 2018 a new partnership with FlexJobs that would boost opportunities for potential teleworkers in Eastern Kentucky to participate in the digital economy. That partnership has already resulted in some very positive results, including new jobs and access to workshop training programs for Teleworks USA clients. FlexJobs Staff Writer Adrianne Bibby reported on the opportunities sprouting from this new partnership in a new blog post, and how that partnership could very well serve as a model for rural employment not only in Eastern Kentucky, but in all of rural America.
Read the blog below, or in its original format by clicking here.
How Remote Jobs Can Help Employ Rural America: Success in Kentucky
by Adrianne Bibby, FlexJobs Staff Writer | October 1, 2018
On its face, the U.S. employment picture is rosy, showing a long stretch of slow but sustained growth in both hiring and wages, with U.S. employers having created new jobs for each of the past 95 months since the recession ended. However, the robust numbers skim over the hard fact that rural areas lag far behind urban areas in recovery and employment rates overall.
One stark reason why rural job seekers haven’t kept pace with their urban counterparts is shrinking opportunity: the job market in rural areas is 4.26% smaller now than in 2008, according to research from the World Economic Forum. Many people who live in rural areas may be looking for traditional, location-based jobs close to home—positions that largely disappeared during the recession and may never come back.
The good news is that telecommuting and remote work are uniquely well-positioned to help bring in new employment opportunities to places that need them. This is because remote work doesn’t have to be done on location in a traditional office building, and instead can be performed from a person’s home office (or coworking space, etc.). Because of this, people in rural areas can be employed in a remote job, working from their home, even if the company is headquartered in a different state or country!
Remote jobs have the potential to shift the paradigm and make a huge difference in closing the urban vs. rural employment gap. Kentucky-based Teleworks USA is working with FlexJobs to make that happen.
Bringing Remote Jobs to Coal Country
How can the disconnect between urban and rural jobs be addressed? For several years, FlexJobs has been hard at workexploring solutions to connect rural areas to remote work and encouraging employers to consider remote hiring as a viable way to engage more people in the workforce. As a direct result, earlier this year, FlexJobs forged a great new partnership with Teleworks USA, a division of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program – EKCEP, a nonprofit organization that offers training, employment, and workforce development programs to eastern Kentucky residents.
The overall goal of this partnership is to help expand remote job opportunities for residents of eastern Kentucky, a largely rural region that is also one of the nation’s bleakest job markets. With an unemployment rate that’s nearly double those of the closest urban areas, eastern Kentucky has been struggling for years to recover from the 2008 recession and create job opportunities for its residents.
Adding insult to injury is the continuing decline of the coal industry, which had been a mainstay employer in Kentucky for decades. The advent of “clean energy” sources has factored heavily into that decline. Recent figures show there were just over 3,900 coal jobs in eastern Kentucky as of June 2018, compared to more than 13,200 coal jobs in 2009, according to the Kentucky Quarterly Coal Report.
The FlexJobs-Teleworks partnership provides remote job training workshops at each of the agency’s eight Teleworks Hubs throughout eastern Kentucky. It’s a fantastic potential boon for eastern Kentucky residents looking for greater access to remote jobs that, thanks to the digital economy, are location-independent. Teleworks USA job seekers gain access to the FlexJobs database of thousands of vetted, legitimate remote and flexible positions. Teleworks purchased 1,500 subscriptions at a bulk discount and distributed the memberships free to their job seekers.
The benefits for eastern Kentucky residents who are participating in the program have included:
- The introduction of remote-friendly employers to the eastern Kentucky region
- A kickoff webinar to introduce participants to the nuances of finding remote work
- Help in navigating the FlexJobs platform and resources
- Support in crafting remote-friendly resumes and cover letters
- Tips on prepping for virtual job interviews
A Model Initiative for Remote Jobs in Rural America
Eastern Kentucky has long labored in the face of dire news reports about the region’s harsh economic realities. That’s why the FlexJobs-Teleworks partnership stands as a fantastic model of how remote jobs can benefit not only eastern Kentucky, but other rural areas impacted by high unemployment and scant locally based job opportunities.
So far, the data about eastern Kentucky job seekers who are being helped by the ongoing FlexJobs-Teleworks partnership is extremely encouraging. Some highlights:
- As of August 1, more than 15 participating employers in the partnership have created 334 remote jobs for eastern Kentucky residents.
- Some 97% of FlexJobs memberships offered to Teleworks clients were redeemed.
- At least two employers, BroadPath Healthcare Solutions and itelbpo, have launched new Teleworks training programs for eastern Kentucky residents in positions beyond customer service and technical support.
FlexJobs has tracked success stories from members who’ve found jobs using our services, including members from rural areas all over Kentucky. Here are a few success stories from FlexJobs members who live in rural areas across Kentucky:
- Michelle W. moved from an urban area to Morehead, Kentucky, and avoids a grueling commute.
- Timothy J. found time for his many career and personal pursuits with a move to Shepherdsville, Kentucky.
- Amy B. who lives in Graham, Kentucky, said she felt more appreciated in her part-time, remote writing job.
- Pierre R. said working remotely from semi-rural Owensboro, Kentucky, has helped him manage health challenges.
FlexJobs and Teleworks are among other organizations at the forefront of initiatives to create remote jobs in rural America. Other states that have hard-hit rural areas include Colorado, Maine, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
Rural States Trying to Attract Remote Candidates
Nationwide, states are moving to acknowledge and capitalize on the value of remote work as a way to both keep people from moving away from rural areas to find work and to attract people to move to their population-challenged states. Telecommuting benefits rural communities in many ways, such as boosting local economy, helping retain residents who might otherwise have to move away for work, and creating a tangible and powerful model for remote employment that can serve as inspiration for others and help reduce unemployment.
The appeal of remote jobs in rural America for workers is often the obvious—they like where they live and want to stay there—but it can also be the need or desire to be close to family or to be in a place with a lower cost of living. Getting out of the “rat race,” living a more simple life that doesn’t involve long commutes and traffic, avoiding high rents/real estate costs, avoiding a non-stop busy and stressful lifestyle, and being closer to nature are other common reasons workers desire to live and work in rural areas.
To leverage these circumstances in a way that helps strengthen their economies and communities, here are a few examples of how states are moving to appeal to remote workers:
- Vermont (which has a fast-aging population) recently signed legislation to pay $10,000 to people who move to the state and work remotely for an out-of-state employer.
- The Utah legislature recently funded the Rural Online Initiative to be run by Utah State University’s extension education program. The program aims to stop young adults from leaving rural Utah by providing job training and access to remote and other work opportunities.
- Residents in Montana are putting their weight behind the “Come Home to Montana” campaign to encourage workers to move to the state and bring their jobs with them through remote work.
- New Hampshire and Vermont became the first two U.S. states to pass laws protecting workers’ “right to request” remote and flexible work arrangements.
There are also local city and county organizations that are making similar efforts. For example, Logan County, Colorado’s Economic Development Corporation, also partnered with FlexJobs to increase access to legitimate remote jobs in their region for people who otherwise wouldn’t have thought or known about the option of remote jobs for employment. And Soloworks in New Mexico is a “micro” economic development program that is training and connecting workers to remote out-of-state jobs with the vision of creating a new economic base for rural communities.
As there’s increasing recognition of the value of the global marketplace and the value of technology, more states are utilizing remote work as a powerful counterpunch to battle declining workforces. Partnering with dedicated organizations like FlexJobs can help states connect with national or global employers that can easily bring a variety of remote jobs into their communities.
Partnering with dedicated organizations like FlexJobs can help states connect with national or global employers that can easily bring a variety of remote jobs into their communities.
Companies with Great Remote Opportunities for Rural Workers
This list offers a good representation of just a few of the companies partnering with Teleworks USA that could be a good fit for people who live in rural areas. Most of the companies below have appeared on FlexJobs’ list of “100 Top Companies with Remote Jobs.”
BroadPath Healthcare Solutions – Remote jobs at BroadPath include positions in customer care and telesales.
Concentrix – A global provider of business services, Concentrix has hired for customer service representatives, quality managers, and call center team leads.
Conduent – Recent remote jobs at Conduent include openings for clinical consultant, registered nurse, and call center professionals.
Customer Direct – Customer Direct hires customer care agents and technical support professionals who can work from home.
itelbpo – As an itelbpo employee, you can work from anywhere in jobs like customer service agent and property and casualty sales agent.
KellyConnect – KellyConnect, part of the Kelly Services family of employers, has offered remote jobs for paralegals, technical support representatives, and customer service professionals.
Liveops – A global leader in customer care solutions, Liveops offers opportunities for rural workers in customer and community service, insurance, and interpreter jobs.
Sutherland – Specializing in process transformation and data analytics, Sutherland has hired for remote jobs in customer support, accounting, healthcare, and operations.
VIPKID – As a provider of English language learning services, VIPKID has offered online ESL teaching jobs that are a great fit for rural residents.
Challenges for Job Seekers in Rural America
Job seekers in rural America can face unique and potentially daunting challenges, such as access to reliable and fast Internet. While Internet access is taken for granted in more populated areas of the U.S., it’s not always available in more remote regions. There are organizations taking steps to address that lack of access though, such as:
- AT&T AirGig – AT&T’s new AirGig technology could bring far greater Internet access to many thousands of rural residents by 2021. The technology uses high-speed data links on power lines (rather than fiber optic cables) to provide broadband access in remote areas.
- Rural Broadband Association – An umbrella organization, Rural Broadband Association represents some 850 independent telecommunications companies that are working to bring technological innovations to rural areas and small towns.
- Kentucky SOAR – SOAR is a network of more than 50 Appalachian counties with a broad mission that includes job creation and expanding the availability of affordable, high-speed broadband. The broadband initiative includes jobs programs to support fiber installation and maintenance throughout the region.
Also, access to remote-friendly skills training and development is often less readily available. One great aspect of ever-evolving technology is the access to online education and training. While it’s true that remote work boosts employment options for rural workers, in order to land the jobs workers need to have the current and relevant skills.
Online training is a great option for people who live in remote areas to participate in virtual classes and earn certifications from the comfort of home. FlexJobs offers members access to more than 170 professional skills tests to help remote job seekers assess where they stand in a competitive job market.
What’s the upshot for job seekers in rural areas like eastern Kentucky? Simply put, it’s that your opportunities for finding meaningful, rewarding work aren’t limited by your geographical location. The ongoing success of the FlexJobs-Teleworks partnership is a great guidepost that shows how workers can transition to new remote careers working for forward-thinking flexible companies. It’s also an encouraging signpost for employers looking to fill remote positions: there’s a great pool of qualified remote workers who happen to live in rural areas, who can help your organization meet its mission.
If you are working on an economic development initiative in your region that involves remote work and would like to partner with FlexJobs, please reach out to Mika Cross, vice president of employer engagement and strategic initiatives, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are living in a rural area and are interested in remote jobs, we are happy to offer up to 30% off a FlexJobs membership. We invite you to register for an account and use promo code RURAL on the billing page.