Posted by: Providence Chamber of Commerce | January 11, 2012

Successful Workforce Development Collaborations Between Higher Ed and Business Highlighted in State House Testimony

Success lies in developing meaningful, strategic and long-lasting partnerships.

That is the message Janet Raymond, senior vice president of Economic Development and Operations delivered to the House Commission to Study Public Education Affordability and Accessibility yesterday.

“We truly believe that collaboration between the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, local colleges and universities, the Rhode Island Department of Education, RI Office of Higher Education and workforce development boards, to align education with business and industry demands, is essential in developing the workforce of the 21st century,” Raymond said.  “Today, I can say those relationships are only growing stronger. We are experiencing a true cross pollination of business and academia.”

Raymond cited various examples of fruitful collaboration between business and academia in her presentation, including the bRIdge Summer Immersion Program.  Called a “Dormcubator,” the program attracted 12 entrepreneurial students from 10 Rhode Island colleges and universities to the downtown campus of Johnson & Wales for six weeks, during which time participants augmented their summer internship experience by building their professional and social networks.  It was so successful that planning is well underway for next summer’s program.

“This program is an excellent example of a productive partnership, as it identified and convened a variety of stakeholders, including both public and private institutions of higher education, business, academia and policy leaders,” she said. “An additional outcome of this effort is the 2012 goal to create a central location for local companies to post internship opportunities, which I am certain will facilitate more collaboration. ”

The program was partially funded by the Innovation Providence Implementation Council – which epitomizes successful business/academia collaboration. The group, comprised of business leaders and representatives from our institutions of higher education, is charged with measuring progress and driving strategy surrounding the development of Rhode Island’s Knowledge Economy, setting an action agenda for moving the Knowledge Economy forward; and distributing grant funding to jump-start projects identified as promising economic opportunities.

The group’s achievements, Raymond told the commission, are measurable. In the last five years the Chamber, in conjunction with the IPIC and other key community partners, have invested close to a half million dollars in the local economy through grants. This funding has helped to create or retain over 150 jobs in RI. That funding has been particularly important to work being done at local colleges and universities, including a smart vaccine design for entrepreneurs at URI, creation of a sustainable seafood program between URI and Johnson & Wales, a Green Economy panel discussion led by URI professors, a Biofuels symposium also with URI, a RIC College program aimed at expanding the green collar workforce; a Knowledge retention symposium and the Dormcubator program.

“There are many success stories. There is however, I believe, an expanded role for the business community,” Raymond said. “We need to continue to grow our partnerships with Higher Education and the Rhode Island Department of Education through continued dialogues to ensure that our students are learning the necessary skills for future workforce opportunities.”

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