A new program is helping high school students connect with good-paying jobs and learn more about careers that may be available to them.
Skills for Rhode Island’s Future (Skills RI) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2016 as an employer-driven workforce intermediary that aims to meet the hiring needs of employers by offering innovative ways to place qualified, underemployed and unemployed candidates into available positions.
“We respond to the needs of businesses and help employers fill their current and anticipated hiring needs, while putting job seekers back to work and on a path towards economic mobility,” said Jill Woodcome, vice president of Strategy and Operations, Skills for Rhode Island's Future. “SkillsRI also works to build a talent pipeline through train-to-hire and internship programming. “
Skills for Rhode Island was part of a recent event intended to show there are great employment opportunities in millwork, cabinets, furniture and woodworking.
The live event showed the workplace and its use of new technology, and people who have had successful careers at companies that offer opportunities and advancement.
The idea for event was developed by Chris Hofmann, Woodworking Machinery Industry Association's Education Committee chairman, and U.S. Lamello product manager for Colonial Saw. WMIA organized the event with the help of Skills for Rhode Island and Herrick & White, a Cumberland, Rhode Island, manufacturer of architectural millwork, which hosted the meeting and provided tours.
The PrepareRI Summer Internship Program is funded by the Governor’s Workforce Board of Rhode Island. The program provides paid summer internships for high school students.
In order to apply, Woodcome said that students must be at least 16 years old and current juniors attending a Rhode Island public high school. In addition to being paid, the students also earn college credit for completing a minimum of 150 hours over six to eight weeks (20-25 hours per week). As the intermediary, Skills for Rhode Island's Futurehelps select students and will match them with employers based on student interests, skills, and preparedness
“In addition to providing skills training and on-the-job experience, the goal of the PrepareRI Internship Program is to provide exposure to various career options,” Woodcome said. “SkillsRI does their best to match students up to internships that reflect their desired career paths. The students are also exposed to a wide variety of careers through presentations and networking opportunities with industry professionals during a required, week-long, pre-internship boot camp that takes place at the end of June.
A wide range of large and small companies were involved in the program’s pilot year in 2018 and they plan to expand the number of sites further this year.
“For students, the internships prepare youth with the skills they need to pursue meaningful, fulfilling futures through professional skills training, on-the-job experience, and connections to adult mentors who can help them achieve their career goals,” Woodcome said. “For employers, the internships help diversify their workforce and build a strong pipeline of young, skilled workers who can keep R.I.’s future economy vibrant and strong.”
The program received a lot of extremely positive feedback following the pilot program in the summer of 2018.
“This internship was an eye-opening experience that (I) would benefit from and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again,” one student said. “This was probably one of my favorite summers during my high school career.”
“I loved this program. It was a great opportunity for students to gain valuable work experiences,” another student said. “(Leaders) spent time speaking with us and listening to what we had to say, instead of treating us like kids. I really hope you will continue this program so that other students can have the same experiences.”
“My favorite thing about my internship was the amazing people I had the privilege of meeting, and the valuable opportunity to learn,” a third student said.
The PrepareRI Summer Internship Program is part of the broader PrepareRI program, a three-year action plan supported by a $2M New Skills for Youth grant from JP Morgan Chase, to ensure all Rhode Island students are college and/or career ready.
PrepareRI aims to close the gap between what students learn in school and what they need for high-demand jobs. The $2M is part of a $75M investment by the bank to help states improve career-focused education. There are similar initiatives around the country.
Woodcome said one initiative is the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program run by the Boston Private Industry Council in coordination with the City of Boston and Boston Public Schools. In this program, more than 3K high school students are hired each summer into jobs or internships at over 200 private sector companies.
Hofmann said that five schools participated in the Herrick and White event, including 80 students. WMIA is in the planning stages for a similar event in Massachusetts for the spring of 2019. Once that second event is complete, he said they are going to work to create nationwide events multiple times per year.
Skills for Rhode Island’s Future provides high school students with paid summer work-based internships. The program connects education with the workplace, allowing students to learn about a job they may want to pursue.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.