PROVIDENCE, RI -- More than 350 supporters of work-based learning attended thePrepare Rhode Island (PrepareRI) Summit today at Rhode Island College. Participants included representatives from eight area colleges and universities, educators from 45 school districts and public charter schools, community organizations that serve opportunity youth, and business leaders from health care, cybersecurity, wind energy, hospitality, and more.
The event featured a keynote address by Dr. Andre Perry, David M. Rubenstein Fellow at the Brookings Institution, followed by a student and employer panel on work-based learning in Rhode Island, 14 different breakout sessions, and roundtable discussions with representatives from nine key industries. Workshops highlighted promising practices and programs for work-based learning in K-12, in higher education, and for opportunity youth.
Under the leadership of Governor Gina M. Raimondo, Rhode Island launched PrepareRI in 2017. “Through programs like PrepareRI, we’re helping more Rhode Islanders acquire the skills they need to fill the kinds of high-demand, high-wage jobs that are growing in our state,” said Governor Raimondo. “We’re providing our young people with the opportunities they need to be ready for college and careers.”
PrepareRI is one of the most ambitious plans in the nation to improve youth career readiness. For students, PrepareRI aims to close the gap between what they learn in school and what they need for in-demand jobs. For businesses, PrepareRI ensures employers have the workforce they need to thrive in the economy of tomorrow.
The third semi-annual PrepareRI Summit kicked off with opening remarks from Brenda Dann-Messier, Commissioner of Postsecondary Education; Frank D. Sánchez, Rhode Island College President; and Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“PrepareRI is a strategic partnership between higher education, the K-12 education system, industry leaders, and state government,” said Brenda Dann-Messier, Commissioner of Postsecondary Education. “Work-based learning is a key strategy to ensure seamless transitions from secondary to postsecondary, and alignment with our state’s workforce needs. Working together, we can reach our goal of having 70 percent of Rhode Islanders earn postsecondary degrees or credentials by 2025.”
“Rhode Island College believes in the importance and the value of work-based learning, both for our students and for the greater community,” said Frank D. Sánchez, Rhode Island College President. “Through specifically designed curriculum, student engagement, dedicated and skilled faculty, and the commitment of business and education leaders to drive work-based learning in their communities and companies, we will lead in preparing students for today’s workforce.”
“Rhode Island has seen record growth in the number of students taking advantage of college-access and advanced coursework opportunities, but we can’t let our foot off the gas,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “If we want the growth of PrepareRI to be sustained, we need to work with and activate our partners in K-12 classrooms, in higher education, and across industry. The PrepareRI Summit is our opportunity to do just that, and I’m grateful to all of the educators, innovators, and leaders who joined us to continue the incredible momentum we’ve built around career education in our state.”
Heather Hudson, Executive Director of the Governor’s Workforce Board, provided closing remarks at the Summit. “The Governor’s Workforce Board is proud to invest in PrepareRI to ensure we are preparing students for jobs of the future,” said Hudson. “This Summit is a great opportunity to highlight our collective progress and continue to respond to growing industry needs.”
With support from two national grant programs, New Skills for Youth and the National Governors Association’s work-based learning initiative, Rhode Island will continue to focus on career education, internships and apprenticeships, and work-based strategies to reach disconnected youth.