Hawaii has become a remote work hot spot over the past year, attracting U.S. mainland-based digital professionals who want to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic surrounded by surf and sand.
Now the state is launching a pilot program designed to help unemployed local residents, particularly those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, take advantage of the remote working trend as well.
Remote Ready Hawaii will train unemployed residents to become either remote business development representatives or remote customer service professionals. It will also provide participants with a paid remote internship and job placement assistance at the end of training.
To qualify for the program, residents must be able to commit 20 hours per week to a paid internship, submit a written application and complete a video interview. Participants will be chosen based on their applications, alignment with the program’s goals, technical preparedness and commitment to the initiative’s requirements.
The American Job Centers will begin notifying qualified residents about the program beginning Feb. 16.
Remote Ready Hawaii is a collaborative effort by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the Workforce Development Council and the state’s county workforce development boards. The initiative is powered by Instant Team, a remote workforce space start-up that strives to improve the career prospects of Hawaii’s unemployed workers.
In a statement, DBEDT Director Mike McCartney said that the pandemic has sped up the acceptance of remote working arrangements worldwide and the initiative will help ensure that “Hawaii’s workers can compete globally from our island home.”
Improving job prospects and wages for local workers is critical to Hawaii’s economic future. For years, a significant portion of the state’s population has been driven away by a lack of job prospects and low wages. Meanwhile, the islands’ tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, putting thousands of people out of work.
State officials believe remote work could alleviate some of these issues by diversifying the economy and giving local workers the flexibility to stay on the islands.
“Remote work for local residents is one important way we can keep families together here in Hawaii and stop the export of our talent,” said Leslie Wilkins, head of the State of Hawaii Workforce Development Council.
Out-of-state remote workers could also play an important role in Hawaii’s economic recovery by spending their income at local businesses, increasing tax revenues and investing in their neighborhoods.
To that end, a group of Hawaii-based business leaders recently launched Movers and Shakas, a program that lures remote workers to the islands with free airfare and then encourages them to learn about local cultures and contribute to the community.
The first wave of the program received 50,000 applications for just 50 spots. However, plans are underway for a second cohort in the near future.