In a discussion with tenth and eleventh graders and faculty today at Rhode Island's new nursing-focused high school, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist stressed the importance of encouraging innovative programs that teach skills to match the needs of growing industries.
Langevin and Gist held a roundtable at the Rhode Island Nurses Institute Middle College Charter School, headed by Superintendent Dr. Robert Pilkington, to examine ways the school can serve as a model for efforts to ensure the state's secondary school graduates are college- and career-ready. Participants reflected on the school's first year of offering students an opportunity to obtain a high school degree as well as professional credentials for a high demand career through a curriculum that combines relevant and rigorous coursework with real-world experience.
"The Nursing Institute Middle College is a wonderful example of the type of innovative approach we need to better align our education and job training systems with the 21st century job market," said Langevin, who co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. "Dr. Pilkington has done terrific work in getting this program up and running and the experiences shared by the students here provide lessons to help us better integrate traditional classroom activities with hands-on training."
Langevin has often cited health care fields, including nursing, as areas in which Rhode Island's economy can grow if the state has a qualified workforce. Even during the 18-month recession, the health care sector added 428,000 jobs nationally due to high demand for these services. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing recently reported that the shortage of nurses "is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows. Compounding the problem is the fact that nursing colleges and universities across the country are struggling to expand enrollment levels..."
"The Rhode Island Nurses Institute offers all Rhode Islanders an innovative model of education that bridges the gap between high school and secondary education, blends academic and vocational instruction, and leads students toward recognized credentials and a diploma," said Gist.
"We will continue to work with Congressman Langevin, with our partners in the health care and other growth industries, and with educators across the state to provide new opportunities for students to pursue high-quality career-technical programs that will prepare them for success in college and in challenging careers."
The event followed up on the Pathways to Prosperity Summit that Langevin hosted last June with the Rhode Island Department of Education to challenge state leaders to come together to close the skills gap that is impeding our economic recovery.
In addition to discussion about the opening of the nursing school and comments by Gist about the work of her Department's Office of Multiple Pathways, Langevin highlighted efforts to develop talent in the cybersecurity field as a point of progress in the 12 months since the Summit. He spoke about the Cyber Foundations Competition that he brought to Rhode Island, in partnership with New England Institute of Technology, to introduce computer-savvy high schoolers to an industry with tremendous growth potential.
"I'm pleased to note that more than 300 students signed up for our second contest, the most participation of any state in the country and more than doubling the number of Rhode Islanders from the first event," said Langevin. "As a next step, I am encouraging local businesses in the information technology and cybersecurity fields to join the effort by seeking out candidates for internships among competition participants. It is my hope that these efforts will serve as a model for developing talent that fits with emerging industries."
Today's roundtable continued Langevin's Rhode Island Skilled Economy (RISE) tour, during which he has visited a variety of venues, including schools and businesses, to advocate for initiatives and create partnerships that will help employers to find skilled workers that fit the needs of expanding industries. Recently he has highlighted the Providence Steel Yard's Weld to Work program for low-income individuals and visited the manufacturing company VIBCO Vibrators to discuss their relationship with the Chariho Career and Technical Center.