NDSU Extension Helping North Dakotans Work Remotely

Jodi Bruns

After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, millions of Americans suddenly were out of work or having to work remotely.

That led North Dakota State University Extension to partner with Utah State University Extension to offer Utah State Extension’s remote work certification course in North Dakota.

But first, four NDSU Extension personnel completed Utah State University Extension’s course in April.

“After we completed the course, it was clear that we were going to be in the situation for a while and felt it was important to bring this course to North Dakota,” says Jodi Bruns, NDSU Extension leadership and civic engagement specialist. She was one of the four to take the course.

Participants Of The Master Remote Work Professional Certificate Program Participate In A Virtual Workshop

Utah State University Extension started the program with the intent of creating job opportunities for individuals in rural communities so they are not limited by geography. This program is designed to equip workers with the tools and skills they need to work from home as a remote worker, freelancer or entrepreneur.

“We saw this as not only an opportunity to help the North Dakota workforce be more efficient remote workers but to also help the rural economy by providing professional opportunities to rural citizens,” Bruns says.

“North Dakota has some of the fastest internet due, in part, to the rural phone cooperatives,” she adds. “People can live here and work anywhere.”

The Master Remote Work Professional Certificate program is a one-month specialized training that is a combination of self-directed learning in nine core modules and four virtual workshops with the whole class via the Zoom platform.

To take the class, participants must have reliable access to the internet, a web camera and microphone, and basic computer proficiency.

Topics the course covers include the work day, communication, workflow, productivity and time management, teamwork, critical thinking, virtual careers and remote job development.

“I learned so much more than I expected,” says Julie Lamborn of Bowman. She took the course in September.

“The classes were well presented,” she adds. “The information was particularly course specific. I honestly felt like I was in a college class.”

For her, learning how to communicate and use communication programs was very helpful.

“No matter your age or your job right now – whatever your job is right now – this would be a super important skill to learn,” she says.

Sue Milender, an NDSU Extension family and community wellness agent in Barnes County who also took the course in September, found she loved it.

“I took the course initially for professional development and it turned out to be so much more,” she says.

“I really think that we’re in the beginning of a work revolution,” she explains. “Yeah, the pandemic forced us to take a really good look at how well we were working and how we were working. The pandemic really moved us at warp speed to pivot to a virtual work platform. I think now employers as well as employees are finding that the pros are really outweighing the cons.”

She believes working remotely is for anyone, including young people just starting their first job, those in midcareer, others looking for a sideline in addition to their regular job, people who are staying at home to care for children or an elderly parent and those who are looking for something meaningful to do in retirement.

“I would highly encourage everybody, regardless of their age, regardless of their position, if they are an employer or an employee, to look into taking this course,” she says.

Lamborn and Milender are among approximately 500 people from throughout the U.S., including about 50 from North Dakota, who participated in the three sessions of the course that NDSU Extension held in the fall.

Following the one-month course, NDSU Extension offered a career planning meeting.

“This isn’t required, as many students are already employed, but for those looking for work, we work with them to connect with remote work job opportunities,” Bruns says.

Bruns is one of NDSU Extension’s four remote work coaches who help participants through the course. The others are Andrea Bowman and Macine Lukach, NDSU Extension leadership and community development coordinators, and Marie Hvidsten, NDSU Extension rural leadership specialist and Rural Leadership North Dakota program director.

“I am so surprised by all of the remote work opportunities available,” Bruns says. “Some students aren’t necessarily looking for full-time work but more of a freelance or ‘gig’ work situation. We have been able to match professionals with editing and accounting work at firms located outside of North Dakota.

“Although we are matching workers with work outside of North Dakota, ideally we would like to find more North Dakota companies hiring remote workers,” she notes. “We are living through unprecedented times in that it is clear that many workers do not need to go to an office somewhere to complete work. It is an exciting time to be a rural professional.”

NDSU Extension is holding the program monthly except for July and December. Visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/lead/remotework to register.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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