TRAVERSE CITY — The future is digital and 20Fathoms is rising to the challenge.
As part of its mission to serve as “the home of technology and entrepreneurship in Northern Michigan,” the downtown Traverse City organization that opened in July 2018 is bringing Udacity, a global educational program, to the region.
“The Future of Digital Challenge” offers digital marketing and business analytics courses for adults and high school students. The courses will continue another of stated goal of 20Fathoms: The attraction and retention of well-paying technology and entrepreneurial jobs.
Thanks to a partnership with the Center for Rural Innovation, 20Fathoms has scholarship opportunities available for Phase Two of “The Future is Digital Challenge.” According to a release, CORI is “a national nonprofit action tank working to advance economic prosperity in small towns across the country.”
Phase One of the courses are free for all participants. Those enrolled will learn the fundamentals of digital marketing or business analytics through a self-paced, 40-hour program.
Participants take a skills assessment following completion of Phase One. The top scores receive a scholarship for Phase Two, a more intensive nanodegree program.
CORI and Udacity will cover 300 scholarships for the nanodegree program open to high school students and adults in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties.
20Fathoms Executive Director Lauren Bigelow said the 300 scholarships should cover the entire “The Future is Digital Challenge.”
That’s another reason why it was easy to hear the excitement in Bigelow’s voice when she spoke about the program. She said 20Fathoms is offering the program for two reasons.
“First, this is just going to add skill sets for the people in our immediate community, which is a big benefit to our companies as well as to the people in our region,” she said. “Also, we could get to an unemployment rate of 15-20 percent. This is an opportunity — for free — to bring an amazing education to our region to that they can have access to those great, high-paying remote jobs.”
Mark Rembert, Director of the Rural Innovation Network at CORI, echoed Bigelow’s goals in a release announcing the scholarships.
“This initiative is about equipping people who have little previous experience in these areas with technical knowledge and skills,” Rembert said in the release. “Especially during this uncertain time, we hope to reach learners from all backgrounds, whether they are young adults looking to build technical skills or established workers exploring a potential career change.
“The digital tech economy is the fastest growing industry in this country, and rural workers are underrepresented — we want to change that.”
Bigelow said 20Fathoms has shown during the two years and two months it has been in operation that technical and entrepreneurial jobs can exist anywhere. So people can live in northern Michigan and have a well-paying remote job.
“You don’t have to compromise anymore,” she said.
“The Future is Digital Challenge” actually has a third track, for front-end web developer. But 20Fathoms already offers hosts “learning communities for both software developers (tccodes) and for cybersecurity professionals (tccyber),” Bigelow said in the release.
Adding digital marketing and business analytics is inline with those other offerings, Bigelow said.
“The workforce skill set that people can develop here is extremely valuable,” Bigelow said.
Advance registration for Phase One is open through Sept. 21. Phase One enrollment opens Sept. 22 and must be completed by Nov. 5.
Successfully completing the skills assessment tests qualifies participants for Phase Two. Also self-paced, the nanodegree programs “include hands-on experience working on real world projects.”
Phase Two is expected to take approximately 10 hours a week for three months.
“It’s intense,” Bigelow said.
According to the release, those completing Phase Two “will have the skills and knowledge needed to pursue entry level positions in digital marketing or business analytics.”
20Fathoms will offer support for program participants through coaching and mentorships. Bigelow said 20Fathoms is working on a partnership with the Innovate Marquette SmartZone to provide the opportunity to do programs one day a week (socially distanced, of course) at the 20Fathoms office.
Bigelow said 20Fathoms already features a ‘Tech Job Board’ at www.20fathoms.org.
“We have a whole flow of remote jobs going through there at any one time,” she said.
Bigelow said 20Fathoms is also partnering with Traverse Connect on a detailed remote work survey “so we can see what people need.”
Registration and more information on 20Fathoms’ programs is available at https://20fathoms.org/initiatives/. More information on the Digital Challenge is available at https://ruralinnovation.us/the-future-is-digital-challenge/.
The free self-paced Phase One covers the fundamentals of digital marketing or business analytics.