The Key to Opening Doors with Kirstin Yeado, Shaniqua Corley-Moore and Mike Gutman

Season #6

In the second episode in our Pathways and Policies to Ensure Rural Learners Succeed in Place and Why it’s Essential for America’s Future series, we begin our episode focused on “The Key to Opening Doors” with Kirstin Yeado, Senior Program Officer at Ascendium Education Group. In this role, Kirstin is responsible for strategic grantmaking to advance Ascendium’s Support Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training focus area, which seeks to expand education and workforce training opportunities for rural learners.

During this discussion, Kirstin shares an overview of the landscape of post-secondary education opportunities in rural communities including identifying gaps and access to supports like transportation, childcare, mental health resources, or attending an institution with robust advising services. Michelle and Kirstin also discuss how philanthropy plays a role in closing gaps, breaking cycles, building capacity and partnerships, and growing pathways for rural communities to have access to education and training pathways.

Michelle also welcomes Shaniqua Corley-Moore, Head of Tech Talent Development, and Mike Gutman, Workforce Development Manager at the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI). Shaniqua drives national initiatives to boost rural tech skilling and employment. Her strategic partnerships with key educational and tech organizations are aimed at integrating regional workforce needs with national talent development strategies. Mike works as part of a team to build tech and digital talent pipelines in rural communities. In his role, he focuses on working with employers to understand hiring demands, building upskilling programs to meet those demands, and then enrolling students into those programs to graduate and get higher-paying tech and digital jobs.

In this second part, Shaniqua and Mike share how CORI is impacting rural workers and organizations by expanding their tech workforce through several key initiatives. They also discuss the importance of growing local talent, providing mentorship, understanding the obstacles rural employers face, building infrastructure and community partnerships, and developing responsive training programs. Finally, they highlight how philanthropy and federal dollars make it possible to do their work.

This episode of The Rural Impact podcast is sponsored by Ascendium. Ascendium believes that learning after high school has the power to transform lives. Driven by this belief, their philanthropy focuses on systemic change to elevate opportunity for learners from low-income backgrounds. Ascendium has a special interest in elevating rural postsecondary education and workforce training. They fund research and resources that can be used to ensure more rural learners have pathways to good jobs that lead to upward mobility. Want to connect with Ascendium? Visit their website at, sign up for their newsletter, and follow them on social media.