ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As rural parts of New Mexico continue to struggle with losing jobs and talented residents, one organization is working to fill the void with new jobs that can be completed almost anywhere.
Through a partnership with the global business services firm Concentrix, SoloWorks is working to fill around 1,500 remote customer service positions for the firm by the end of June, the latest hiring push that has come out of the partnership.
SoloWorks director Shelly Fausett said not everyone hired to work remotely for Concentrix will be a New Mexico resident, but the organization has pushed to position New Mexico as a center for remote work, in part to help alleviate the job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I firmly believe that someone shouldn’t have to leave their home, their hometown, their families, in order to have a career that’s meaningful to them,” Fausett said during a recent economic development webinar.
SoloWorks launched its pilot program in late 2016 in Cibola County, as a way to start rebuilding a local economy that had never fully recovered from years of job losses in extractive industries, according to Eileen Yarborough, executive director of the Cibola Communities Economic Development Foundation. Yarborough said the small county lost 7,000 jobs directly tied to the uranium industry bust in the 1980s.
“We were so desperate to create jobs we were willing to try new and innovative things to make that happen,” she said.
SoloWorks began as an in-person program, but Fausett moved the program online to help it scale and expand to other rural communities in New Mexico that were losing jobs and talented graduates.
“Jobs and talent are migrating to major metros at the expense of smaller communities,” Fausett said during the webinar.
Fausett said SoloWorks is designed to facilitate a remote work environment, beginning with applicants taking assessments on topics like digital literacy. Those who go through the program can receive a remote work certification and have access to SoloWorks employee meet-ups, career planning services and other tools.
Fausett said the program is free to applicants, and the program is reimbursed by the state’s Economic Development Department for each job it creates.
“Some people just really need someone to believe in them and give them the tools and resources that they need to succeed,” Fausett said.
While the program has been in place for years, economic development leaders see a unique opportunity for remote work to catch on in light of job losses associated with the pandemic. On top of the other job losses, Fausett said during the webinar that Cibola County is expected to lose more than 600 additional economic base jobs due to the pandemic. Replacing that with remote work, she said, is the most cost-effective way to ensure those jobs return to rural communities.
Anyone interested in applying for positions at Concentrix can do so at www.soloworks.org/Concentrix/.