Bringing Year-Round Employment Opportunities to Northern Michigan

Last October, Digital Works opened its doors in the Straits Area Education Center in Cheboygan, Michigan, as a pilot project supported by Connected Nation, Michigan Economic Deployment Corporation (MEDC), and local stakeholders, such as the Community Foundation and the Cheboygan Economic Development Group (CEDC). Since it’s opening, 48 people have participated in the training curriculum. Most importantly, 18 economic base jobs have been created and 12 participants have been placed in local jobs, totaling 30 job placements thus far. Digital Works, a program of the national nonprofit Connected Nation, is a training and digital workforce placement program.

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“Digital Works has helped place adults in more than 650 jobs since 2013,” said Stu Johnson, Vice President of the Digital Works program. “Many of those jobs offer the flexibility of working from home. We have more than 60 national employer partners we work with to hire our program graduates, and we’re proud to offer the various work opportunities here in Cheboygan.”

Digital Works offers graduates the skills needed to secure a variety of Internet-based job options ranging from client engagement to tech support and online gaming support. Opportunities are for part-time, full-time, traditional W2, or 1099 contractual employment.

One of our most recent program graduates and placement is J.J. Sherwood, who was recently hired by Sutherland as an on-line gaming support agent for Xbox. J.J.’s prior job was working in the food industry. While it was year-round employment, there were limited opportunities for pay or position advancement. Now, working with Sutherland, he has greater prospects for upward mobility with the global corporation and is learning valuable new technology skills.

“I am really excited about my new job,” said Sherwood. “I’m looking forward to learning new things about the tech field. It was a grueling interview process and I’m glad they chose me for the position.”

“We have local residents working for national companies such as Sutherland, Support.Com, and Liveops,” said Christi Cross, Digital Works program facilitator. “The community benefits by workers spending their paychecks locally. Workers benefit by being able to work at home and eliminate some of the costs associated with commutes, such as gas and car maintenance. Companies profit by not having costs associated with bricks-and-mortar employees.”

It is wonderful to live in Northern Michigan. The beautiful scenery and friendly atmosphere is unmatched. However, year-round, full-time, gainful employment positions can be limited.

“This program will help many people break free from the insanity of the summer work/winter unemployment cycle,” shared one recent program graduate. This graduate came to Digital Works specifically in need of year-round gainful employment. As head of a single-income family, the candidate wasn’t able to pay the bills and wanted to break free of the seasonal loop.”

Bud Darnell, representative of the Cheboygan Communities Foundation and CEDC, is excited to give Cheboygan an economic boost through the Digital Works program.

“Quite frankly, these are the jobs for tomorrow,” said Bud. “It is using the technology available to us all and puts us on the leading edge of development. It really is a unique strategy to create jobs in rural areas facing high unemployment and seasonal underemployment.”

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