RIMES study calls for enhancing manufacturing curricula

Citing a projected increase of 2 percent in manufacturing jobs between 2010 and 2020, a new study by the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service recommends refining already strong curricula and developing new courses at three key schools to help close the skills gap in Rhode Island. More

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RIMES study calls for enhancing manufacturing curricula

A NEW STUDY by the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service found that the curricula at three key schools successfully matches in-demand job skills, but also recommended ways to improve curricula further and recruit higher numbers of students into manufacturing programs.
Posted 1/31/14

PROVIDENCE – Citing a projected increase of 2 percent in manufacturing jobs between 2010 and 2020, a new study by the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service recommends refining already strong curricula and developing new courses at three key schools to help close the skills gap in Rhode Island.

Based on fresh data-analytics research conducted in 2013, the RIMES report titled “The Manufacturing Industry: Producing Rhode Island’s Future” concluded that manufacturing curricula at three schools – the William M. Davies Jr. Career and Technical High School, the Community College of Rhode Island and the New England Institute of Technology – already reflect a strong correlation between the job skills in demand and the skills being taught in the classroom.

Using a “goodness of fit” analysis to compare skills found in job postings and skills present or missing from curricula, report authors found that many skills taught at the three schools “match those that are sought after by employers.”

At Davies, for instance, skills taught in the classroom matched skills sought in job postings 60 percent of the time or better. Those skills that were absent from Davies’ curriculum could be attributed mainly to insufficient hands-on training.

“Despite the concerns of Rhode Island manufacturers, there is curriculum in place to address basic manufacturing workforce needs,” the report stated.

Funded by the R.I. Governor’s Workforce Board, the $22,500 report was prepared by RIMES, as well as the group’s workforce advisory board, the Manufacturing Industry Partnership and the Workforce Strategy Center, a nonprofit research and consulting group focused on workforce development.

The report projected that Rhode Island’s 1,513 manufacturers will hire 40,560 workers in 2020, compared with 39,847 in 2010, potentially making manufacturing the fourth-largest sector in the state.

The average annual manufacturing salary was $63,383 in 2010, compared with $46,325 for private nonfarm occupations in the state, the report said.

RIMES outlined an action plan to improve manufacturing training in the report, including a recommendation that the three schools use the “goodness of fit” analysis to further discussion with manufacturers on what may be missing from current curricula.

At the same time, RIMES’ Manufacturing Industry Partnership should establish a curriculum-review committee to help schools address instructional gaps and roll out new educational programs, the report stated.

The Manufacturing Industry Partnership should also work with the R.I. Department of Labor and Training to provide more internships or apprenticeships, the report said.

“Industry needs to be aware of the resources they can leverage,” said Harsha Prakash, CEO of RIMES. “The general public needs to be aware that there are highly paid manufacturing jobs out there, and the education side needs help to keep these programs going, and that can only be done with the support of industry and the general public.

“The old perception of ‘dirty’ manufacturing jobs needs to go away,” added Prakash. “You do need an education to be in manufacturing and manufacturers are willing to invest.”

A second key recommendation included using so-called “bridge” programs to help adult students get the academic, work and technical skills they need to succeed in education and training programs after high school, along with English as a second language programming contextualized to production careers.

The report further recommended developing a marketing plan to promote any new educational programs to engage manufacturers in the recruitment of graduates and engage political and educational leaders in determining how resources can best be used to promote manufacturing. Finally, the report advocated the development of a recruitment plan to bring more students into manufacturing programs, and a plan to track recruitment results.

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