November 24, 2014
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High-paced CCRI program aims to match unemployed with good jobs
John Howell
BRINGING HOME THE BACON: Congressman James Langevin listens as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse outlines the Pathways to Advance Career Education (PACE) Program at a CCRI press conference Friday.

The Community College of Rhode Island is about to break some traditional concepts about the educational process and fill jobs, too.

Imagine, for a moment, covering the work of 12 courses that usually would take about two years to complete in 22 weeks. And then, even better, imagine walking into a job with a good paying salary.

Sound impossible? How can you cram all that knowledge into such a short time span and, seemingly even more impossible, where are you going to find a job when the state’s unemployment rate is stuck at 11 percent and pundits are saying Rhode Island will continue to lag behind any national recovery?

But that is just what Dr. Cap Frank and his newly hired team at CCRI is out to do. And he’s thinking big. By the fall of 2014, Frank projects 600 currently unemployed Rhode Islanders will have completed the Pathways to Advance Career Education (PACE) Program and be employed in either health care or information technology – two sectors where there are jobs but not enough qualified workers to fill them.

“It enables innovations to make people ready for jobs faster than a two- or four-year college program,” said Frank.

Frank, along with college officials, those who helped design the program, Congressman James Langevin and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, gathered Friday to outline the project.

So far, nine candidates – unemployed persons ranging in age from 35 to 55 – have been recruited for the first two classes that will have about 20 students each. The classes for certified nurse assistants and computer applications specialists are projected to start in late July.

Frank says PACE targets the worker who may have lost his manufacturing job because the company moved operations out of the country and maybe never thought of attending college. Getting those people on track to a good paying job in health care or information technology may require some tutoring in basic education as well as some mentoring, an internship or apprenticeship in addition to classroom work. PACE graduates will be trained in how to find a job, including how to identify employers that are hiring, resume preparation and interviewing skills.

It doesn’t promise to be easy, but optimism was running high Friday, as was the praise for Congressman James Langevin and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

Di Pasquale observed that CCRI is one of 33 community colleges across the country to receive a Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College to Career grant. The three-year $3.4 million grant is the largest in CCRI’s history.

Di Pasquale applauded the Congressional delegation “for bringing home the bacon to Rhode Island.”

“We are so grateful to our delegation for helping us attain this grant and to our partners for helping us craft a program that will produce graduates you want to hire,” he said.

One of those partners, Kathie Shields, executive director of Tech Collective, called the program “a system change.” She said it aims to cover “soft” and business skills, problem solving and critical thinking. An aspect of the program is to also continually evaluate the skills gap.

Michael Paruta, director of workforce development at Care New England Health System, also a partner, pointed to the aging population and the growing demand for middle skilled jobs such as home health workers. He said that projections nationally are that the country will need an additional 5.6 million health care workers by 2020.

He, too, sees the need for change.

“No matter what happens with senior care, the train has left the station. There will be change,” he said.

Charles Fogarty, director of the Department of Labor and Training, said the program offers an opportunity to those looking to move up the career ladder.

“Lifelong learning is critical,” he said.

“These jobs are going to be here to stay, let’s prepare for them,” said Langevin.

He called the jobs in health care and information technology “high demand jobs with high potential for growth.”

Likewise, Senator Whitehouse said jobs await those who complete the program and that employers are looking for a skilled workforce.


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