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7/17/2018 Assembly includes $4 million in budget for Woonsocket job training center
WOONSOCKET — The General Assembly included $4 million in the state budget enacted last month for a public-private partnership that will bring a new job training and higher education center to Woonsocket, announced today by Governor Gina Raimondo.

At a press conference outside Woonsocket City Hall, the Governor announced four employer partners -- including Amica, CVS Health, Fidelity and AAA Northeast -- that will help develop curricula and training programs offered at the Northern Rhode Island Higher Education Center.

The center is modeled on the successful Westerly Education Center that Governor Raimondo, established through a public-private partnership with Electric Boat, the Royce Family Fund and others earlier in her term.

Rep. Samuel Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly), who was instrumental in the establishment of the Westerly Education Center, attended the press conference today, along with Reps. Stephen M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket) and Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland) and Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland).

"America's Industrial Revolution was sparked in Northern Rhode Island and the Blackstone Valley. As we rebuild and strengthen our new economy, Woonsocket is positioned once again to play a big role in training people for good-paying, middle class jobs," said Governor Raimondo. "This public-private partnership will help ensure that everyone who wants a shot at a good job can access the job training they need to be competitive. Since 2015, we've totally revamped job training and education in Rhode Island. We need to protect that progress and keep going to ensure that every Rhode Islander -- at every skill level and in every part of our state -- is included in our recovery."

"For the first time since the 1980's, the City of Woonsocket's landscape will be changing as it becomes home to a higher education facility. This center will be a tremendous gain for the residents of Woonsocket and surrounding areas as it will offer major personal betterments to those who attend, while contributing to the economic growth of Woonsocket," said Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt. "I'm grateful to Governor Raimondo for recognizing that Woonsocket is the perfect location for this educational facility, as well as to the Legislature for supporting the initiative -- and also to the important partnership with the entities which will be the backbone of the higher education center. The extension of educational opportunities to cities such as ours creates advancement for all of the State of Rhode Island."

The Governor first proposed the Northern Rhode Island Higher Education Center in January during her State of the State Address. She included $4 million in her budget proposal, which was approved by the legislature, for the Center. This state funding will potentially be matched through philanthropic, private and federal funds. The Northern Rhode Island Higher Education Center will serve as a regional hub for workforce development initiatives designed to spur economic growth and serve the northern Rhode Island communities with training opportunities that lead to jobs necessary for the 21st century economy.

Across Rhode Island, seven out of 10 jobs require education and job training beyond a high school diploma, though not all require a four-year degree. Under Governor Raimondo's leadership, Rhode Island has totally revamped the way it does job training and now works directly with employers that are hiring to develop education and training programs. Over the last 18 months, the Westerly Education Center has educated more than 1,000 students in 71 workforce development course cohorts that have prepared them for jobs in industries that include shipbuilding, call center and sales, financial services and healthcare.

"The Northern RI Chamber of Commerce is pleased to be a part of this initiative. As a member of the Governor's Workforce Board I have seen firsthand the success of the Westerly Education Center and look forward to working with all the partners in replicating the initiative here in Northern Rhode Island," said John C. Gregory, President and CEO of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.

The Northern Rhode Island Higher Education Center will replicate the employer model from Westerly:
  • AAA Northeast will develop training programs to support their needs for call center bilingualism, leadership training, data analytics and travel/tourism.
  • Amica is developing training curricula to help Rhode Islanders compete for available jobs in computer information systems and building programs to meet the company's needs in call center services (including bilingualism) and leadership training.
  • CVS Health will develop training cohorts to allow Rhode Islanders to become certified as Pharmacy Technicians and prepare them for jobs for data analytics and IT. The company will also develop programs to foster leadership and management skills required for employees to move along established career paths and earn higher wages and provide training for individuals with disabilities in a mock retail store.
  • Fidelity has identified needs in data analytics and IT/cyber and will launch a partnership with Bryant University's Executive Development Center to train new hires.
"Rhode Island is a state on the move, and we are pleased to lend our resources and business expertise to this new workforce training facility that will help meet the growing demand for highly-skilled talent in the region," said Lisa Bisaccia, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, CVS Health. "By pulling together government, business, education and the community around innovative workforce development programs, we can have a far-reaching impact on Rhode Island's economic future."

"AAA Northeast is proud to partner with the State of Rhode Island and the Higher Education Center," said Keri Borba, Director of Learning and Development for AAA Northeast. "We're confident the Center will support the goals of bringing more educational opportunities and long-term career development training to Rhode Island residents."

Northern Rhode Island's economic activity has been substantially affected by the long-term deterioration of the manufacturing industry. Textile manufacturing had been a principal source of economic strength and stability as well as good-paying employment, but many of those manufacturing operations have closed down. Although excellent jobs are available at several large healthcare and financial firms in Woonsocket and neighboring communities, many local residents lack the educational background and skills needed to compete for the positions. As a result, the employers often hire from outside the region and Northern Rhode Island communities like Woonsocket struggle to grow their local economies.

"This is a testament to Governor Raimondo's demand-driven workforce strategy," said Director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Scott Jensen. "Employers are raising their hands and working right alongside us to tackle their unique workforce challenges, and collectively, we're expanding access to innovative job training, so that Rhode Islanders in every corner of the state have pathways to high-wage careers."

"Our Westerly Education Center is living proof that public and private resources in higher education, industry and social services can unite to create solutions benefiting workers and employers alike," said Brenda Dann-Messier, Commissioner of Postsecondary Education. "The new education center in Woonsocket will continue to help Rhode Islanders achieve the postsecondary credentials required for success in high-demand, high-wage jobs."

While the Northern Rhode Island Higher Education Center will be located in Woonsocket, a specific location within the city has not yet been determined.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903