PrepareRI Summit draws large crowd aimed at youth career readiness

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More than 250 educators, industry partners, students and community leaders came together recently for the first-ever PrepareRI Summit, a daylong strategy session on career education in Rhode Island.

Hosted by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), the Summit featured opening remarks from Commissioner of Education Ken Wagner and, by video, Governor Gina Raimondo, who has made job training and career education a top priority in her administration.

“Rhode Island’s economy has changed, and education needs to change with it,” said Raimondo. “We need to give our students challenging, work-based learning opportunities that ignite their passions and prepare them with the skills they need to be successful after graduation. That’s what PrepareRI is all about, and I’m thrilled to see this initiative grow with the support of stakeholders at every level.”

PrepareRI is an ambitious plan to improve youth career readiness. It launched in January of 2017 after Rhode Island became one of only 10 states in the nation to win a $2 million competitive grant under New Skills for Youth, an initiative developed by JPMorgan Chase, in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Advance CTE.

“Graduation isn’t a finish line; it’s just the beginning, and education is the means through which we can make sure that all students have the skills they need to be successful in the journey ahead,” said Wagner. “Today’s summit was a great opportunity to get diverse perspectives in one room to figure out how we can implement and expand career education so that every student has access to meaningful, relevant career exploration opportunities.”

Leading Rhode Island businesses brought industry perspective to the Summit, outlining the skills and experience young people need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow. The Rhode Island Foundation, IBM and CVS Health participated in a cross-sector panel to kickoff the event, and afternoon breakout sessions likewise focused on the need for alignment between educational programs and workforce demands.

Congressman Jim Langevin, who co-chairs the Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and Brenda Dann-Messier, Rhode Island’s Commissioner of Postsecondary Education, delivered the afternoon keynote address.

“Career and technical education puts our students on a path to high-growth, high-wage careers,” said Langevin. “I’m proud to help lead this work at the federal level with the Congressional CTE Caucus, and I’m excited to see Rhode Island making career education a priority. When we invest in CTE and build strong partnerships between industry and education, it’s a win-win for our students and for our economy.”

In addition to the many elementary and secondary educators, principals and superintendents in attendance at the Summit, Postsecondary Commissioner Dann-Messier represented higher education with colleagues from the Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.

“By working together across an aligned system of education, from kindergarten through college, we can ensure that every Rhode Island graduate has the experience, skills, and confidence they need to excel in the classroom and be successful in the workplace,” said Dann-Messier. “Through PrepareRI, we’re making the important connection between our work in education and the demands of our growing economy, and the enthusiasm behind the summit today shows me that we are on the right track.”

PrepareRI is run by an inter-agency task force that includes the Rhode Island Governor’s Office, RIDE, the Governor’s Workforce Board, the Office of the Postsecondary Commission, and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation.

This task force, with the support of partners in education, business and the community, plans to convene a second PrepareRI Summit in the spring. For more information visit the PrepareRI website.

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