Governor Gina Raimondo met with an apprentice from Antaya Technologies on Tuesday but rather than visiting the Warwick-based manufacturer they talked over clam cakes and chowder.
Ian Christian of Cumberland completed the Real Jobs Rhode Island program, in partnership with We Make RI, the manufacturing group’s non-profit division, to take his classroom hours for his apprenticeship, and is now working at Antaya as a level one apprentice. Christian will become a toolmaker’s apprentice next year.
At a prearranged meeting Christian and Raimondo met at Iggy’s Doughboy and Chowder House in Oakland Beach.
Christian told how he found the program.
“I was a graphic designer looking for work, looking to go back to school and to get training. My friend told me about apprenticeships, so I started looking them up online and saw this program, met with Brendon, one of the great teachers, and he explained what manufacturing was,” said Christian.
Christian thinks most people don’t understand manufacturing as it is today.
“They think it’s an assembly line of people putting pieces together, and it's a whole new world and with a computer background I’d do well. There's more machines and more computers happening, it’s the future, like an evolution of tech and manufacturing. So [before the program] I wasn’t ready to just jump into the job, and you leave the program ready, and I work for Antaya Tech now,” he said.
Antaya Technologies, which specializes in automotive glass connectors for defrosters, heard about Ian through the relationships he built through the Real Jobs program. Christian has completed three sets of 144 hours of classroom work, and will complete 6,000 hours of work experience in the next three years, rising to the next level of apprenticeship each 2,000-work hours.
Raimondo asked Christian if he had taken trigonometry, and then told a story of “a guy who was in the program, and he said he hated math in high school and loved trig for manufacturing because it was relevant.” Ian then spoke on how in their training program, they don’t let you fail, and will help you until you do well in your classes.
According to We Make RI director Barbara Johnson, the program 210 graduates since it began in 2013. She said the program puts students in a better place to receive jobs with a livable wage with benefits and vacation time. There are 10 jobs for every graduate of the program in manufacturing.
Raimondo was surprised by this fact, and asked for exact statistics in the future. Real Jobs now has apprenticeship programs in broad healthcare and pharmacy tech at CVS, as well as medical coding apprenticeships and multiple culinary apprenticeships.
As the lunch wrapped up and the Governor was told it was time she leave to get to her next appointment, she promised to double Real Jobs funding, staying in line with her Rhode Island Promise platform to make post secondary education affordable and accessible to all students in Rhode Island. She then took the opportunity to speak to different patrons at Iggy’s Chowder House and Iggy’s Boardwalk restaurant.