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story.lead_photo.caption A pile of dollar bills is shown in this Oct. 24, 2016, file photo. (AP / Mark Lennihan )

The Generator has announced its involvement in The Future Is Digital Challenge, an initiative focused on helping rural Americans interested in learning new digital skills to participate in the nation's growing tech economy.

The Generator is an innovation hub powered by Go Forward Pine Bluff. The Generator is partnering with the Center on Rural Innovation, a national nonprofit action organization working to advance economic prosperity in small towns across the country, and Udacity, a worldwide digital career advancement education platform.

The local hub is working with these agencies to make Udacity Nanodegree Program scholarships available for residents in Jefferson County, one of the center's Rural Innovation Network areas, according to a news release.

"This initiative is about equipping people who have little previous experience in these areas with technical knowledge and skills," said Mark Rembert, director of the Rural Innovation Network at the Center on Rural Innovation. "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 looking to gain more skills or 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."

In the first phase of the challenge, participants will learn the fundamentals of either digital marketing, business analytics or front-end development through a self-paced foundational course, sponsored by Udacity.

Once the course has been completed, participants can be certified after finishing an assessment that tests their knowledge in their corresponding track. Participants will then qualify for a Udacity Nanodegree Program scholarship in one of those programs by taking a final assessment to test their knowledge, which will set them up for success with a scholarship.

The Center on Rural Innovation and Udacity will sponsor more than 3,000 seats for the foundational courses and 300 scholarships in the corresponding Nanodegree Programs, based on foundational course performance. Scholarships, each valued roughly between $1,200-$1,600, will be distributed across the center's entire Rural Innovation Network.

"We know how hard covid-19 has impacted our Jefferson County community, and we're glad to be offering this program to those who are interested in gaining new knowledge," said Mildred Franco, executive director of The Generator. "At The Generator, we believe that rural towns and their economies are more likely to thrive when residents have greater access to economic opportunity. We are proud to be part of the Rural Innovation Network and offer this opportunity to our friends and neighbors."

To learn more about the scholarship program and sign up for a foundational course, visit the Future Is Digital landing page at The Future is Digital Challenge.

The Generator is an innovation hub powered by Go Forward Pine Bluff, one of the economic development initiatives of the Go Forward plan. The purpose of The Generator is to generate economic growth through programs, partnerships and technology. The Generator aims to empower makers, dreamers and doers that generate a thriving and inclusive community by providing space, tools, and programs to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

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