ARLENE VIOLET - Jobs training is on right track

ARLENE VIOLET - Jobs training is on right track

Business TV network CNBC recently named Rhode Island as the worst state for doing business. The designation certainly was not the first time. Forbes magazine, for example, parceled out the dubious distinction in 2009. While Republicans and Democrats are haggling over state Republican chairman Brendon Bell’s recitation of the ranking at last week’s GOP convention, the fact is that the governor, at least, is trying to change the metrics and she deserves credit for her efforts. She also deserves financial backing from the General Assembly for future similar efforts.

Gov. Gina Raimondo recognizes that there is a skills gap and has taken action steps to match jobs with necessary training. In May 2016 she announced a real jobs partnership with Electric Boat which is preparing, it says, to hire 4,000 new employees in the upcoming decade. This initiative awarded $369,000 for area career technical schools to teach welding and ship fitting skills to students. Over the next two years about 180 students will enter the program, which hopes to eventually graduate around 350 students each year. Electric Boat also expects to train its present workers this fall for advanced skills. New England Tech is also enrolling students for certification programs for the naval work.

One can be skeptical and eschew using state money to train for jobs for what Electric Boat should be doing, but the governor has taken the bull by the horns. It is refreshing to see that she is a realist and is revamping career education to match actual job needs. The governor has also correctly addressed the need to identify solutions for transportation issues occasioned by the Quonset location.

With General Electric poised to hire employees for what it claims are high paying tech jobs the effort to develop the tech savvy workforce of Rhode Islanders also looms ahead. Again, purists could claim that the multi-billion-dollar corporation should fund its own training but it obviously is not doing so. Raimondo is putting her sights on such training in order to make the jobs available to the home crowd first.

On one level I could argue until the cows come home about financial incentives for companies who should be putting their own money on the line. I feel the same way when I read about the tax credits being doled out under the auspices of the Commerce Commission for projects that the developers should be fronting. But, to quote my late Aunt Mary, “What’s a body to do?”

Some projects are easier than others to divine. The Pawsox Stadium grab was rank opportunism and money for low paying employment. I certainly don’t think that credits should be given to companies like A.T. Cross to leave one R.I. town and go to another. The Job Lot argument that it was going to exit the state was a blatant con job and I rue that it got credits. Certainly, construction jobs are generated by these proposals but so would building a pyramid in downtown Providence. There has to be some stronger nexus like actual skills training for existing well-paying jobs which seems like what the governor is doing.

So, let the finger-pointing cease on Brandon Bell’s remarks and let’s work together to ramp up the job skills for the real jobs now and in the future.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.