CRANSTON, RI — On Friday, the RI Department of Labor and Training (DLT) hosted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) to showcase how the business-led Real Jobs RI program is meeting employers' workforce and skills challenges. The USCCF's Center for Education and Workforce came to Rhode Island to learn about Real Jobs RI and share best practices it has learned through its national Talent Pipeline Management initiative to mobilize the business community to close the skills gap.
In 33 sector partnerships, 16 industries, and more than 150 distinct skills-training programs across the state, Real Jobs RI is knitting together the demand side of the labor market — employers — the supply side — workers — and investing in the competitiveness of both. Since Real Jobs' formation in late 2015, and as of September 1, over 900 workers have been trained and hired by more than 200 companies statewide and another 600 incumbent workers have been trained for future advancement at their employers.
"Investing in workforce development solutions like Real Jobs RI is a win-win," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo, who will speak at the USCOCF's upcoming America Working Forward workforce conference in Washington, D.C. "Workers get market-ready training that leads to jobs, and employers get the talent they need to grow and compete. We are excited and honored that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has chosen to spotlight our success with this program."
"We continue to find ourselves in an economy that will compete on talent," said Jason Tyszko, Executive Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Center for Education and Workforce. "In a state like Rhode Island, public and private sector leaders alike understand that to build a skilled and competitive workforce, we need to activate new levels of employer leadership. Today's event is the first step in identifying how USCCF's Talent Pipeline Management initiative can complement the great partnerships Rhode Island has built with employer leaders to date."
A half-day symposium aimed at offering Real Jobs partners the latest strategies to build their sector talent pipelines, the USCCF event led with a presentation from human resources officials at Electric Boat (EB). Through its Pipeline to Manufacturing Careers in Ship Building Partnership, EB has trained and hired more than 400 workers to fill critical positions as carpenters, electricians, machinists, pipefitters, sheet metal workers, ship fitters, and welders. EB's Quonset Point facility currently employs 3,500 workers. The company expects to employ more than 5,500 workers by the end of the 2020s. Manager of Human Resources Courtney Murphy and Senior Human Resources Representative Nancy Martin led EB's presentation.
Tyszko and USCCF's Center for Education and Workforce Director Jaimie Francis described the development of the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) process. The first step is forming an "employer collaborative," a partnership organized by employers, for employers. The next TPM steps include engaging in demand planning, communicating competency and credentialing requirements, analyzing talent flows, and implementing performance measures and aligning incentives.
TPM's goal? "Strengthening America's long-term competitiveness by informing and mobilizing the business community to be more engaged partners, challenging the status quo, and connecting education and workforce reform to economic development," the USCCF website says.
A major challenge is bringing a workforce development program to scale without mass-producing it, because no two sectors or industries have identical skills needs. Real Jobs RI partnerships solve this by matching up the demand side of the labor market with an industry convener and strategic partners such as education providers, higher education institutions, community groups, human services organizations, organized labor, state agencies, workforce boards, and one-stop centers. Once the demand side is set, the partnership creates a customized training program to ensure that job seekers are learning the exact skills they need to be hired.
"Real Jobs RI is helping employers train the right workers for the right jobs at the right time," said DLT Director Scott Jensen. "We appreciate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's interest in what we're doing and are grateful for the chance to learn the chamber's lessons about strengthening our workforce development system so that it becomes a true economic development asset for the state."
Attendees learned about overcoming communication obstacles between industry and educational institutions, how input from employers shapes a sector partnership's short-term and long-term hiring strategies, why competitors are benefiting by collaborating in various Real Jobs RI partnerships, and how working with industry intermediaries affects the day-to-day work of public agencies.
Panelists included Molly Donohue Magee, Executive Director of the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance; Shannon Brawley, Executive Director of the RI Nursery and Landscape Association; Glenn Wilcox, Director of CRD Separation Sciences at Pfizer Inc; and Stephen Osborn, Chief of Innovation at the RI Department of Education.