Revitalizing Rural Economies with Innovative Professional Development

Catalyze Challenge winners are shortening the distance between classroom and careers in rural America to create more local economic opportunities and set up young people for life-long career success.

News November 02, 2021
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By the Catalyze Challenge

Students from Digital Pathways in the Rural Heartland

As opportunities for manufacturing and agricultural careers decrease with the rise of automation, the workforce landscape in rural America is changing. Education and employers must evolve to meet the changing needs of today’s economy and students­. Rural America has the opportunity to harness the talent in their classrooms to increase economic growth for their communities.

Without intentional strategies to help communities access educational and career opportunities, rural America will increasingly experience a digital and economic divide in talent and socio-economic growth.

Catalyze Challenge winners are shortening the distance between classroom and careers in rural America to create more local economic opportunities and set up young people for life-long career success.

Innovation and Job Creation in Rural Communities with Collegiate Edu-Nation

With a vision of thriving rural communities, Collegiate Edu-Nation supports students from their first day of preschool to the start of a meaningful career. Boasting goals of 100% high school graduation rate and 80% bachelor’s degree attainment for Collegiate Edu-Nation participants, this ambitious program aims to break the cycle of rural decline and embed a mindset of “Rural Hope” into Texas communities.

“I grew up in Roscoe and have seen firsthand the rural decline; it’s a state and national trend. The best and brightest leave for opportunities never to return and you end up with rural brain drain and loss of social capital and growth in generational poverty… We did the research and realized we could do better” – Dr. Kim Alexander, former school superintendent and Collegiate Edu-Nation CEO.

Collegiate Edu-Nation connects school districts with training and resources in a number of critical areas, including capacity building, intentional service supports, statewide networking, and professional development, leading to authentic college and career readiness for all students.

Introducing Students to Digital Software Careers with Digital Pathways in the Rural Heartland

Big Tech isn’t just for Silicon Valley. With their Digital Pathways in the Rural Heartland initiative, Crowder College and Codefi joined forces to reshape the narrative about career opportunities in rural America from one centered on manufacturing and agriculture to one that includes a flourishing digital workforce. The Digital Pathways in the Rural Heartland offers courses for middle and high school students in rural Missouri to learn about career opportunities and gain professional experience in software development.

“Ideally, when we finish our first year, we have students that are employable because of regional CTE [Career and Technical Education] experience. In the meantime at Crowder, we have Postsecondary learning options to continue if they choose to,“ -Chett Daniel, Crowder College Director of Research and Innovations.

After completing the coursework from this initiative, students will have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials that can open doors to well-paying careers. This initiative will contribute to eliminating skills and opportunity gaps and strengthening local economies.

Bringing remote Career Opportunities to Rural Arkansas with Just and Thriving Remote Futures

Seeing the trend of work-from-home opportunities increasing throughout the US, Just and Thriving Remote Futures hopes to bring remote work opportunities to students in rural communities throughout Arkansas.  

“In our conversations with youth we saw a real creative entrepreneurial spirit. Few talked about leaving their community… The first change we want to see is narrative change – that you can stay home in your very rural community still and have a career that will provide for you and your family.” – Candace Williams, Rural Community Alliance Executive Director.

Visit the Winners to learn more about all of the winning Round 1 Catalyze Challenge solutions and stay tuned for more to come on Round 2 – applications opening soon!

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Press Release: Catalyze Challenge Awards Over $5 Million to Innovative and Equitable Solutions that Bridge the Gap between Classroom and Career

25 winners from across the country will receive up to $500,000 to drive equity-focused career connected learning models

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