Updated January 30 at 7:30pm

Neumont zeros in on job skills

A proposal to bring a for-profit university specializing in computer science and information technology to Rhode Island is sparking debate about the state’s ability to close the skills gap that’s leaving high-tech jobs vacant due to a shortage of adequately trained candidates. More

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EDUCATION

Neumont zeros in on job skills

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A proposal to bring a for-profit university specializing in computer science and information technology to Rhode Island is sparking debate about the state’s ability to close the skills gap that’s leaving high-tech jobs vacant due to a shortage of adequately trained candidates.

The fate of Utah’s Neumont University’s request to establish a second campus in Providence will likely depend to a great degree on what state officials decide about how severe the skills gap is in Rhode Island and how well-equipped existing higher education institutions are to deal with it, now and in the very near future.

Daniel P. Egan, leader of a Providence-based association of independent private colleges and universities in Rhode Island, maintains existing academic institutions are more than capable of resolving the skills gap and have already started to do so.

“We have the infrastructure in place to provide what’s needed,” said Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, an association that represents the nonprofit, degree-granting institutions in the state, and which doesn’t see a need for Neumont here.

On the other hand, Neumont University’s president insisted that Rhode Island schools are not meeting the need for workers trained in computer science and IT. “No educator can accurately claim [Rhode Island colleges and universities] are filling the demand,” said Edward H. “Ned” Levine, Neumont president.

His perspective is echoed by Raymond B. Sepe, president of Electro Standards Laboratories in Cranston, an IT research and development firm with 75 employees.

The presence of a for-profit university in Providence specializing in computer science would be “not a problem at all,” he said.

“Maybe they’ll be motivated to do things and stay in touch with us,” he said of Neumont. “It sounds like I could certainly use them.”

Levine on his end is seeking approval from the General Assembly and the state Board of Governors of Higher Education to open a Neumont campus in what he said would be leased space in Providence, with no location targeted yet. The approval process takes about six months, officials said.

“Anything we can bring to Rhode Island to expand the economy would be good news for all Rhode Islanders,” the Rhode Island School of Design graduate and former strategy officer at Johnson & Wales University in Providence told Providence Business News last week.

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