Continuing his Rhode Island Skilled Economy (RISE) Tour, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) visited the new Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (the MET) in Providence today to examine innovative educational ideas being implemented by the Center and methods for improving workforce development in the state.
MET co-directors Dennis Littky and Nancy Diaz-Bain discussed the benefits of initiatives like the College Unbound program, run by the MET's parent non-profit organization in conjunction with colleges like Roger Williams University, to train and retrain adult workers to compete in the changing economy. They described the initiative's use of out-of-the-classroom settings and partnerships with companies and other organizations to serve students who might not otherwise successfully achieve a higher education degree. Littky and Diaz-Bain stressed their ability to utilize this approach to meet the needs of working and unemployed adult learners in Rhode Island who did not finish their undergraduate education.
Langevin noted the importance of expanding these types of efforts to improve the connections of educational institutions with the larger business community, which will strengthen the pipeline of skilled workers and lead to more quality job opportunities in the state.
"As reaffirmed last week during a panel moderated by the head of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, our state has a "severe skills gap,'" said Langevin. "We all need to work together to come up with ways to provide training that best prepares Rhode Islanders for growing industries and then get the word out across the state about initiatives that might serve as a model for other programs.
"I commend Dennis, Nancy and their staff for a tireless commitment to giving Rhode Island students -- from high schoolers to adults in need of retraining -- the best possible opportunity to succeed and help rebuild our economy. Their efforts demonstrate the type of creative, out-of-the-box thinking required to adapt our workforce development efforts to the current environment."
Littky spoke to the benefit of boosting the number of Rhode Islanders with Bachelor's Degrees by one percent, with a significant focus on adults who started college but did not finish their degrees. He pointed to a finding by CEOs for Cities that "increasing the four-year college attainment rate in each of the nation's 51 largest metropolitan areas by one percentage point would be associated with a $124 billion increase in aggregate annual personal income."
Students in College Unbound develop and complete a personalized learning plan that meets requirements of an affiliated institution of higher education. They determine specific skills in which they want to gain proficiency to accomplish their professional goals and seek out local organizations and businesses that can benefit from projects that relate to their objectives.
Littky and Diaz-Bain were later joined by seven 10th through 12th graders to discuss high school programs that can be tailored to the needs of individual students, particularly helping those who are not as well-served by a traditional classroom experience. The MET curriculum, which stresses internships, individual learning plans, advisory, and college transition skills, was recently featured in a forum by the U.S. Department of Education.
Today's participants echoed the sentiments of student Jonathan Caines, who pursued interests in business and entrepreneurship at the MET and has continued to Fairfield University. At the forum, Caines spoke about the individualized learning plan and internship that were central to his secondary education and instilled in him a love of learning.
In recent months, the RISE tour has taken Langevin to a variety of venues to address closing our skills gap and strengthening our economy. 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 closing the skills gap. The events advocate initiatives and create partnerships that help address the inability of employers to find workers able to fit the needs of expanding industries. He is asking schools, companies, job training facilities and other organizations that want to be involved to contact his office with ideas.