The US State Department is helping to fund Connected Northland, a flexible digital training and job placement programme, with a $16,000 investment. The Far North District Council is contributing $6000.
The US investment is the result of a two-way 2018-19 US State Department Professional Fellows learning exchange offered to US digital enablement experts and Northland Digital Enablement Group members.
The FNDC has engaged Connected Nation, a US-based non-profit organisation established 20 years ago, to lead the project. Its Digital Works programme, launched eight years ago, is designed to ensure job-seekers are educated, mentored and upskilled, while also being supported in job placements.
In the US, the programme has achieved an 80 per cent placement success rate and high participant retention, which the project partners hope to replicate in Northland.
The project is being delivered by the Northland Digital Enablement Group, whose members include the Far North, Whangārei and Kaipara District councils, the Northland Regional Council and Northland Inc.
FNDC team leader community development and funding Ana Mules said the Connected Northland project would run through to July, with the council's digital strategy, Nothing But Net, and was "just another chapter" in the region's digital success story.
"Improved connectivity brings a world of opportunity to Northland, and we're using better broadband to help Northlanders get job-ready for remote working," Mules said.
Jude Thompson, Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan portfolio manager at Northland Inc and chair of the Northland Digital Enablement Group, said Connected Northland was a great collaboration.
"We are proud to be working with Connected Nation on this ground-breaking project, because it is all about developing local talent," she said.
"This is about flexible digital training with a focus on job placement, so it is a great opportunity for Northlanders, particularly those in remote rural areas. Being involved with Connected Nation means our talent in Te Tai Tokerau get to learn at home from professionals overseas. It is a unique opportunity, and Northland Inc is identifying potential employers to participate."
The aim is to sign up 20 businesses by the end of this month. Employer requirements can be built into the training, and ideally there would bepositions that could be filled remotely, although Thompson says there is no pressure on organisations to hire after the training.
The project is the first time Connected Nation has worked in New Zealand.
Executive vice-president of development and planning at Connected Nation Chris Pedersen said it had been "such a privilege" to participate in the international learning exchange with New Zealand in 2019.
"We learned that there is a need across all countries and cultures to work together toward digital equity and better connectivity for all people," he said.
"Since that time we have continued to share ideas and collaborate. That led us to the launch of the Connected Northland initiative. We are very excited to be partnering with the Far North District Council and the Northland community to make a difference to the lives and wellbeing of everyday New Zealanders."
All Northland libraries are supporting the project, with staff ready to assist learners and offering free public wifi and computer access.
• Northlanders can sign up at the Digital Learning Hub at www.driveyourlearning.org/signup