Langevin visits Rick's Auto Body, ready to help company find workers
In this economy, who would turn down a job earning $25 to $30 an hour? The answer may be simple: people who don’t have the proper skills for some available occupations.
“We need two people right now but people are not trained,” Ronald J. Piscione, president of Rick’s Auto Body at 62 Post Road in Warwick, said of automotive repair technicians Tuesday. “They could make $50,000 to $60,000 a year.”
Congressman Jim Langevin visited the body shop Tuesday and got a tour from Piscione, as well as his son, Ronald D. Piscione, vice president. Langevin said he plans on having his researchers look into providing the family-owned and operated shop with federal funds in order to teach people how to do the jobs at hand.
“You could get more kids in here to intern at the high school or college level,” said Langevin, who co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. “That’s something to think about.”
In a press release, he also said people need to pay more attention to companies like Rick’s when they say they are struggling to hire people with the right abilities to fill job openings.
“We will not solve our unemployment problem unless we have better collaboration between our business and education sectors so students acquire the talents they need to succeed in high-wage, high-skill careers,” he said.
But other people who attended the event believe there are other issues altogether. Ray Mann, the collision repair instructor at New England Institute of Technology at 110 Access Road in Warwick, said students intern at Rick’s when they reach their sixth semester. However, many of them are from out of state and commuting for school or only living in Rhode Island for their studies. They often move back home after they finish the program.
“I really don’t have an answer for why more of our students don’t stay in Rhode Island,” he said. “I think they all want to be with their families.”
Further, he said some students receive their degrees and pursue alternative careers.
“I shake my head and say, ‘Why?’” he said.
Stephen Lauro, the sales manager at Color Systems, was also at the event. He said he feels unemployment requirements are “too lax.”
The company, which is owned by Steven Choiniere, has a team of sales representatives that visit establishments in Rhode Island, as well as nearby states, and report that many automotive businesses are in need of employees. But Lauro said plenty of people turn down jobs because they’d rather collect.
“They say, ‘I have 15 weeks left on unemployment and I’m going to ride it out until the end,’” he said. “I watch the news and they say how high the unemployment rate is in Rhode Island and I look at the television and say, ‘They’re saying that there aren’t jobs but there are.’ The process isn’t set up correctly to collect.”
Nevertheless, Rick’s is still thriving, as they celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. Through a 50-week period, they repair 600 cars.
To honor the shop and its employees, Langevin presented them with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.
“Fifty years of business is a major, major milestone and is quite a testament of dedication,” said Langevin, who grew up not too far from the shop.
Yet Rick’s offers the area more than just car repair. In fact, they help preserve the environment, as they use eco-friendly, waterborne, non-polluting paint that they apply with a state-of-the-art energy efficient spray booth. It was installed nearly three years ago.
“It has specially designed motors so there’s no wasted heat or hazardous waste,” said Bob MacDonald, who has served as the comptroller at Rick’s for more than 40 years. “Only two or three other locations have it in the state.”
MacDonald also said he enjoys working with the Pisciones. He takes great pride in the business and has a lot of respect for Americo “Rick” Piscione, who started the company with the elder Ronald in 1961 on route 44 in Centerdale before relocating to the corner of Fair Street and Post Road in Pawtuxet Village in 1965.
The Pisciones began with a 1,000-square foot space, which actually was a blacksmith’s shop at one time, and expanded through the years. It now occupies 10,000 square feet.
“They are the nicest family,” MacDonald said. “Americo knew how to fix cars, how to paint and taught anybody whatever they wanted to learn. He taught his son and the business prospered as a result.” He and his wife, Josephina, took in about a half-a-dozen foster children over the years.”
Auto Body Technician Jim LePore has worked at Rick’s for 20 years. He agreed with MacDonald’s sentiments, saying, “We’re like a big family.”
Roger Pereira, owner of Dent Solutions, a mobile company based in Cranston that performs paint-less dent removals, also enjoys working with the family. He has been doing subcontracting work for them for nearly 12 years.
“It’s quick and affordable for everyone, including Rick’s and the customers because you don’t have to re-paint the car,” Pereira said. “I save them money and in turn they save the customers money.”
No matter what the economical situation is, the elder Piscione said while many people are leaving the state and moving to Florida, he doesn’t plan to. Rather, he takes pride in being a small business owner in Rhode Island.
“I want to be here,” he said. “I believe in the state and working hard.”
Earlier this month, Governor Lincoln Chafee and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian visited the shop to congratulate the Pisciones and their staff for 50 years of service.