State higher education center expected in Woonsocket

State higher education center expected in Woonsocket

WOONSOCKET – The Blackstone Valley will soon host a $4 million Northern Rhode Island Higher Education Center, an initiative state officials say will bring job training and provide more educational opportunities for residents in the northern part of the state.

Though state officials said they were still finalizing locations for the new center as of Tuesday, a press statement released at the time of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget signing on June 22 indicated the center is planned to be located in Woonsocket.

State officials did not provide details on when the new center will open, or exactly where it will be located, but indicated that more information will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

The center, included as part of the $9.6 billion fiscal year 2019 budget, will be modeled on the Westerly Higher Education Center, according to state officials. The Westerly center, opened in 2017, is a public-private partnership that hosts classes offered by CCRI, Rhode Island College, the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island School of Design and Roger Williams University, and also rents space to companies such as Electric Boat, which uses the venue to offer job training to new hires.

Nora Crowley, chief public affairs officer at the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, said the center is a collaboration of several state and local agencies, including the Department of Labor and Training, the Department of Education, the Commerce Corporation, the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, the public institutions of higher education in the state and the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. The Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner will oversee the programming and operations of the center when it opens.

“The center will bring together higher education, business, industry and community partners to meet the workforce development needs in northern Rhode Island,” she said.

“Initially, the center will concentrate on bridging gaps in education and workforce development in high-demand industries, including advanced manufacturing, IT, cybersecurity, finance and healthcare,” she said.

Crowley declined to confirm that the center will be in Woonsocket, saying there are a couple of area locations being considered.

She said the new center is intended to replicate the success of the Westerly center, which in its inaugural year trained or provided classes to 1,100 people. She said the center will be a hub for adult training and education in the region and address the need for more workforce development beyond a high school education in the state.

“Today, 70 percent of jobs in Rhode Island require more education and training than a high school diploma. It’s imperative that we ensure every Rhode Islander has access to the training they need to get a good paying job,” she said.


Will they be paying taxes? That is the question.

This will be good for the city. Aside from bringing training to help the education dept and businesses of the city, it will also benefit some of the small city businesses. People who will travel to this center will stop in the city for a coffee on their way in, they may stop to fill up on gas on their way home. At least it's a step in the right direction.

Besides this, though, what is the mayor doing to bring in business to the city? Is she (as one female to another) asking the governor for help in bringing business to Woonsocket? Does she ever drive around the city that she represents and looks for ways to bring in business? There is that lot across from the middle school that has been empty for almost a decade. The plazas are nearly empty now, and someone I met once said about Woonsocket that it is "nothing more than tattoo parlors and barber shops". Let this higher ed center be a beginning. Let's get more going.