A training program developed by the New England Institute of Technology and manufacturers in Rhode Island is starting to have an effect, if only a modest one, on the state’s jobs crisis.
Established with a three-year, $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor awarded in early 2013 and other funding, the Shipbuilding/Marine Trades And Advanced Manufacturing Institute at NEIT has resulted in a 90 percent placement rate for the 60 of the unemployed or displaced workers graduating from the program, said Fred Santaniello, an account executive in NEIT’s Center for Technology and Industry. Another 30 are currently in the program, he said.
Santaniello, who oversees the SAMI program, said participating firms signed memorandums of agreement or letters of support when NEIT was obtaining the grant, which allowed the companies to participate in shaping the curriculum to meet their needs. The SAMI program is also funded with $440,000 in grants from the Governor’s Workforce Board and $50,000 from the Rhode Island Foundation.
As partners, the firms agreed to consider hiring graduates who succeed in the training program, Santaniello said. “Our goal is to make sure at the end of the training the students enter into a full-time job,” he said. “We start with the employers, finding out what they want, what kind of skill gaps are there, and that really drives our curriculum design.”
That approach matches objectives at General Dynamics Electric Boat, which has hired more than 20 people from the program so far, said Jason Vlaun, EB’s chief of human resources. EB is hiring for the next several years to meet its latest government contract obligations, including the Ohio-class replacement submarines, Vlaun said.
“Our goal is to interview and make as many offers as possible, and the real reason why is: the collaborative effort with NEIT,” he said. “We listen to them, and they listen to us. I know it seems like a drop in the bucket, but we’ve got to start somewhere. We haven’t seen these hiring numbers for growth in manufacturing in Rhode Island for about 20 years. The next five years are crucial building block years.”
Chuck Paul, vice president of Guill Tool & Engineering Co. Inc. in West Warwick, asked NEIT to focus on training for advanced computer numerically controlled machinists as well as welders. The company makes extruded products ranging from Bic pens to the coating on electrical wires commercially, and also does contract work for EB, he said.