Officials celebrate grant to prepare RI workers for high-tech jobs


In an effort to help more Rhode Islanders find good-paying, sustainable jobs, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) last week joined with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Director of the R.I. Department of Labor and Training Charles Fogarty, and business, education and community leaders to outline plans for a $7.5 million federal grant that will help support local workforce partnerships and discuss new plans to prepare local workers for high-level jobs in technology-related fields.

In October, Workforce Solutions of Providence/Cranston and The Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island received $7,516,324 in federal H1-B visa funds to team up with Tech Collective – Rhode Island’s technology industry association – to develop a job-training pipeline for middle- and high-skill job placements in the Information Technology (IT) field. The goal of the program is to help unemployed Rhode Island workers, particularly those who have been out of work for an extended period of time, land high-tech jobs available here and in the area through a program that provides intensive outreach, support, and skills training.

“The Ready to Work Partnership Grant is part of a broader effort to revamp our workforce development programs – to encourage better collaboration and coordination, and connect employers to workers with the skills needed to help their businesses thrive.  This program will help more Rhode Islanders learn new skills and successfully compete for good-paying jobs in high-growth industries. I commend Mayor Fung and Mayor Tavares, along with our workforce investment boards, the partner colleges and universities, Tech Collective, and other local training providers who are part of this endeavor. They are working overtime to try to help connect the long-term unemployed to job openings and I will continue doing all I can to support their efforts,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

The project will target long-term unemployed Rhode Islanders for middle- to high-level skills positions in the IT industry. The program will employ three rapid re-employment strategies: intensive coaching and other short-term services leading directly to job placement; short- or long-term skills training; and IT on Demand, a training program that combines soft skills with technical training.

“The Ready to Work Partnership grant is a perfect example of a collaborative effort between federal, state and municipal agencies working together to put Rhode Islanders back to work in the highly desirable IT field. This is a great opportunity for our residents to gain the skills that employers have identified as necessary to fill these well-paying positions. I would like to thank Senator Jack Reed for his strong support of the application submitted by Workforce Solutions of Providence/Cranston,” Fung said.

“This is a great example of the power of partnerships. Through the work of the two local workforce investment boards [Providence/Cranston and Greater RI] and the information technology industry partner for RI, Tech Collective, many Rhode Islanders will be given an opportunity for training that will lead to mid-level employment opportunities in the information technology sector,” said Nancy Olson, executive director of the Workforce Partnership of Greater RI.

“Tech Collective is proud to be working with Workforce Solutions of Providence/Cranston and the Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island on the recently announced $7.5-million Ready to Work Partnership federal grant. Programs and services will focus on developing the workforce pipeline for Rhode Island’s information technology industry, which currently employs 13,500 professionals and growing,” said Kathie Shields, executive director of Tech Collective. “This funding will not only benefit Rhode Island’s unemployed, but our companies across all industries, our economy, and our communities. We look forward to getting these activities underway and delivering tangible, impactful results for Rhode Island.”

The federal funds may be used for programs that focus on employer engagement, individualized career counseling, job placement assistance, and work-based training that facilitate hiring for jobs where employers currently use foreign workers on H-1B visas. Rhode Island was among 21 states that submitted successful applications for the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Ready to Work Partnership grant.

A study released by the Economic Policy Institute this month highlights the critical need for the workforce development programs Reed has championed. According to the study, Rhode Island ranked eighth in the nation in terms of jobs lost to China from 2001 to 2013. Rhode Island lost 13,200 jobs, or 2.58 percent of its total, the majority of them in manufacturing.


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