PrepareRI Summit Focused on High-Wage Jobs for Rhode Island Students

WARWICK, R.I. – More than 300 supporters of career education attended the Prepare Rhode Island Summit today at the Community College of Rhode Island. Participants included educators from 29 school districts and public charter schools, representatives from six area colleges and universities, community organizations, and business leaders from construction, the arts, computer science, cybersecurity, and more.

In addition to a keynote address from Governor Gina Raimondo, the event featured a cross-sector panel on career education in Rhode Island and 16 different breakout sessions. Workshops covered everything from setting up internships and apprenticeships, to student equity, and highlighting the pathways that help students transition from high school into postsecondary education and high-wage, high-demand careers.

“Rhode Island is a state to watch, and our economy is positioned for continued growth thanks to smart investments, streamlined processes, and, most importantly, a workforce that can meet the needs of industry,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Our students are our most valuable asset, and PrepareRI is an investment in our students and an investment in our future.”

The Summit kicked off with opening remarks from Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education; Brenda Dann-Messier, Commissioner of Postsecondary Education; Heather Hudson, Executive Director of the Governor’s Workforce Board; and Steve Bowen, Interim Deputy Executive Director of Membership and Outreach for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

“We have a comprehensive career education strategy that gives students access to challenging coursework, hands-on work opportunities, and exposure to career options that build on their strengths, interests, and passions,” said Commissioner Wagner. “We are making learning relevant and more connected than ever to the successful futures we envision for our students. Our message is clear: if you have the passion, we have a pathway.”

"Postsecondary and K-12 education in Rhode Island are working closely together to ensure that all students have pathways to good jobs," said Commissioner Dann-Messier. "PrepareRI is one important avenue for that collaboration. We are all committed to increasing postsecondary attainment - including four- and two-year degrees, and certificate programs - to ensure that more Rhode Islanders are prepared to step into high-demand, high-wage careers."

"For the past few years, more and more employers have expressed concerns about now having enough skilled talent in Rhode Island. The Governor's Workforce Board is thrilled to see such interest and enthusiasm from educators who want to learn more about the shifts in our economy and workforce and respond to this challenge," said Heather Hudson, Executive Director of the Governor's Workforce Board. "The more that educators can align their teaching to the high-wage, high-demand industries in our state, the more prepared our youth will be for good paying jobs, which will in turn enable our businesses to thrive."

"Rhode Island is a leader in advancing career readiness for all students, showing this important work begins in elementary school and continues until students graduate on a clear path to a high-demand, high-paying career,” said CCSSO Executive Director Carissa Moffat Miller. "CCSSO is proud to support Rhode Island and other states in this effort through the New Skills for Youth Initiative to ensure every child has access to a high-quality education that provides pathways into college and careers.”

PrepareRI launched in 2016 after Rhode Island was one of only 10 states to be awarded a New Skills for Youth grant from JPMorgan Chase and CCSSO. It is one of the most ambitious plans in the nation to improve youth career readiness, and already, Rhode Island has seen significant successes in our effort to deliver high-quality, relevant, and engaging learning opportunities that prepare students for the future.

Some of the exciting milestones in Rhode Island’s career education landscape include:

  • Since 2015, we have grown career education programs by 30 percent, for a total of 155 programs statewide
  • Creation of five P-TECH programs, which are unique opportunities for students to earn a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, and a first-in-line job opportunity
  • From 2015 to 2017, the number of schools adopting computer science programs rose from 9 to 261 - a 2,800 percent increase
  • Over the past four years, we’ve increased participation in Advanced Placement courses by 38 percent. Rhode Island had the largest year-over-year increase of any state in the country
  • College enrollment during high school has increased by more than 150 percent, with nearly 25,000 college credits earned during high school last year

lso at the Summit, details on the PrepareRI Internship Program were shared with stakeholders. Thanks to a partnership between the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), the Governor’s Workforce Board, and Skills for Rhode Island’s Future, rising seniors are now eligible to apply for paid, six- to eight-week internships with one of 100 leading employers in the state. The internship application is now live, and students have until April 15 to apply, at which time Skills for Rhode Island’s Future will help select students and match them with employers for the summer of 2018.

To learn more about Prepare Rhode Island, visit the PrepareRI website or check out the 2018 annual report for goals, strategies, and more exciting data.

Spencer Sherman