2017-09-14 / News

Rhode Island must continue to expand manufacturing labor pool

Capitol Corner

Manufacturing in Rhode Island is alive and well, but not the manufacturing from the days of our grandparents.

Technology has changed how we do business today and how we live. Today’s manufacturing requires knowledge in technology, math, ladder logic, G-code, lean manufacturing principles and computer-aided design. Manufacturing represents 15 percent of the state’s economy with more than 1,600 manufacturers in Rhode Island ranging from sole proprietors to companies with more than 100 employees.

The number-one challenge I hear from manufacturers is finding qualified candidates to expand their business. The biggest asset of any company is its people. Let’s be real, because not every high school student is going to college, that’s why the governor’s manufacturing initiative in this year’s budget is so important. The General Assembly approved about $3.65 million to upgrade Davies Career & Technical High School to create a state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing center.

Investing in manufacturing to train high school students exposes them to careers that will help them in the future. It also helps manufacturers — from craft breweries to precision manufacturers — employ a skilled and qualified work force to meet the demand of their customers.

Many young people don’t know what opportunity looks like today. The new manufacturing in Rhode Island is in defense, marine and infrastructure technology and cyber security. Rhode Island is a defense and undersea technology leader not just in New England but throughout the country.

Everyone starts somewhere. So, start by talking with Dave Chenevert at the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association and enroll in its apprentice program called We Make RI. It has a 95-percent graduation rate and the association helps secure its apprentices jobs.

More young people should tour Taylor Box in Warren and talk to Dan Shedd, owner of a third-generation family business. He’s survived recessions, expanded his manufacturing facility and continues to look for good talent for his growing business in this new economy.

Let’s drive economic growth by creating a skilled work force while expanding manufacturing in Rhode Island.

It’s the future.

It’s the new economy.

It’s good-paying jobs in our backyard.

Ruggiero represents Jamestown and Middletown in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

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