How Rhode Island Is Future-Proofing its Workforce

STEMThe U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently named Rhode Island the second-best state in America for innovation and entrepreneurship, and the new education programs the state is pioneering are intended to reinforce that ranking. In efforts to “upskill” the new generation, Rhode Island is finding innovative solutions to the challenges the country faces in preparing our children for the high-skills jobs of the future.

With a particular focus on education, many pieces of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s legislation are paving the way for bold action to create a new economic toolbox for the state. The administration recognizes that creating a strong talent pipeline can serve as an attractive benefit to businesses looking to relocate or grow in the state, and so it has developed or adopted exciting initiatives to ensure that Rhode Island’s students are being prepared to enter high-demand STEAM fields.

Some of the new programs and incentives include a Center for Advanced Manufacturing at the state’s career and technical high schools, as well as a pledge to invest in the state’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) initiative. Additionally, Gov. Raimondo has personally overseen efforts to make Rhode Island not only the first state to provide computer science to every child in every public school, but also to become one of the first states to offer two years of free college at an in-state community college.

“ Gov. Raimondo has personally overseen efforts to make Rhode Island not only the first state to provide computer science to every PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT, but also to become one of the first states to offer two years of free IN-STATE COMMUNITY college.”

A strong talent pipeline also is a benefit to Rhode Island residents, and the state is making a strong effort to retain key talent after graduation—first and foremost, by ensuring that good jobs exist and are available for graduates. And then, for post-graduates entering the workforce, Rhode Island has established the Wavemaker program, which defrays student loan payments for up to four years for those pursuing careers or starting businesses in technology, engineering, design and other key sectors in the state. Another program proposes to provide refundable job training tax credits on a competitive basis to help support job training.

Perhaps the most promising development is the Innovation Campus now in the works. The $20 million bond issue approved by Rhode Island voters in November 2016 will be used to create a facility that will forge strong university-industry partnerships and bridge the gap between the world-class research taking place at the state’s universities and the opportunity for new startups and jobs creation. The Innovation Campus will help turn research into commercial activity and transform work already happening in the state into jobs for its citizens. It will highlight the advanced manufacturing, biomedical, cybersecurity, defense and marine sectors, among others.

At a time when the country is facing challenges to ready the workforce for a rapidly changing future, Rhode Island is working to meet those challenges for both businesses and individuals.

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