GLOBAL OUTLOOK: Hope Global CEO Cheryl Merchant says the workforce is the cornerstone of R.I.’s manufacturing industry. Pictured above is Hope Global machine operator Julio Martinez.
PBN PHOTO/NATALJA KENT
By Rhonda Miller PBN Staff Writer
The Rhode Island Foundation has put $630,000 into its belief that intensified collaborations among movers and doers can “Make It Happen” – “It” to include lowering the state’s stubbornly high unemployment rate, raising the household median income and closing education, employment and income gaps across the state.
“We made the funding available to those who will follow through and do something,” Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg said of financial awards that were expected to be detailed at a media briefing at the organization’s Providence headquarters March 14.
The $630,000 in awards for 12 projects is the response to a September 2012 brainstorming session at the R.I. Convention Center at which more than 300 private-sector and community leaders set out to find innovative ways to set the state firmly on a healthy economic course. They came up with an overarching prescription for the state’s ailments – bold action.
One action earning a $50,000 Make It Happen award is to turn the career spotlight on advanced manufacturing for the shipbuilding and marine industries.
“We’ve been [ringing] the death knell of manufacturing in Rhode Island and elsewhere. Well, manufacturing isn’t dead,” said Steve Kitchin, vice president for corporate education and training at East Greenwich-based New England Institute of Technology. “We need a skilled workforce and at the same time we need resources to attract people to these careers.”
The school’s $50,000 Make It Happen award will be used to attract students to the new Shipbuilding/Marine Advanced Manufacturing Institute, called SAMI, to be launched with a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor awarded NEIT in February, Kitchin said.