A rising tide of the proficiency level of the state’s high school educational system will guarantee better-quality jobs for our students. It will also enhance their value and help Rhode Island’s economy by changing its direction as an importer of job candidates to one of filling our industry needs by self-fulfillment.
The recent defense-industry skills gap study (“Defense skills study finds shortfalls,” March 2, 2012, PBN.com) identified a large deficiency of qualified candidates available to fill openings in the IT field. These openings are currently being filled with candidates from our neighboring states, a trend that must be reversed.
How do we do this?
One way is to implement an early-college program that allows student to take college-level classes while in high school and finish them at the end of five years of high school with an associate degree (this kind of program exists in other states). The graduates then can enter the workforce or continue on to a four year college and complete their bachelor’s degree.
The Gates Foundation has helped fund many early college programs An effort is being undertaken with Community College of Rhode Island President Ray M. Di Pasquale to design an early-college program to address the existing skills gap in the IT field identified in the aforementioned study with a team of school and industry representatives.
Fortunately, no educational charter changes may be needed, as students can take college-credit courses today while in high school. This new approach would be focused to fulfill the need identified in the study and would be guided by a corporate sponsor that would not necessarily supply funding but guidance and endorsement of this approach. A similar effort could be taken to address other needs in the workplace.
Let’s work together to raise the educational level of our high school students, which will assuredly raise the level of employment and prosperity for all of those in Rhode Island. •
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