Five Questions With: Julian L. Alssid

Julian L. Alssid is vice president of workforce partnerships at the Community College of Rhode Island. Prior to joining CCRI, Alssid was chief workforce strategist for College for America at Southern New Hampshire University.

Alssid has more than 30 years of experience working with decision-makers who seek to grow the economy and create a pipeline of skilled talent. Between 1998 and 2013, he founded and led the Workforce Strategy Center, where he advised more than 20 states on workforce policy.

In addition to authoring multiple studies on workforce strategy, Alssid speaks and writes regularly on the need for policy and educational reform in the field.


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PBN: How many students do you expect to take part in the DEAL program and when will it start?

ALSSID: DEAL, or Digital Economy Aspirations Labs, [is] an innovative approach to workforce development. In its first year, the first lab focused on IT services will support 15 to 20 CCRI students through an information technology mentorship, plus an additional 200 CCRI students through various exposure opportunities at the innovation hub. While some elements of DEAL are already underway, the physical lab at Infosys will be in place for fall 2019.

PBN: Do you have an expectation for how long CCRI’s part of the program will be, as in, will it be a standard two-year program of study or longer in order to learn what must be learned?

ALSSID: Duration of programming built through DEAL will vary based on employer and industry demand and the “readiness” of the student entering the programs. Programs that are built to upskill a work-ready talent pool with a specific credential may be quite short, while other programs may include years of training and continuation beyond CCRI to our four-year institutions. DEAL also promotes a culture of lifelong learning, as that is what will be necessary for success in the new economy.

PBN: Do you already have agreements signed with the four-year institutions that will finish the DEAL students’ educations?

ALSSID: CCRI has transfer agreements with more than 70 four-year institutions across New England. More recently, we have collaborated with our sister state institutions – [Rhode Island College] and [University of Rhode Island] – to create a more robust transfer policy to make the transfer from one institution to another easier for students to navigate and provide greater clarity on the most efficient and effective path to transfer.

Having a strong transfer policy is important because we know that students who transfer from community colleges are well-prepared and graduate at the same, if not a better, rate as students who start in the four-year system. That means we are helping students complete their academic studies and join the workforce faster.

PBN: DEAL is not the only such program that links job training with employment in certain sectors of the R.I. economy. What others are there and how many students take part in them?

ALSSID: CCRI’s Division of Workforce Partnerships has aligned our programs and approach with the state’s economic priorities. Our flagship initiatives include our partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat, [in which] we have trained close to 1,000 individuals since 2017.

Projects that we intend to scale this year include data literacy training and contextualized workplace Spanish piloted with AAA Northeast and Ocean State Job Lot, respectively, and the Fast Track to CNC Machining Program, which we have developed with Polaris MEP. In all, the division will serve over 8,000 students by the end of this fiscal year.

PBN: Do you expect that DEAL graduates will look beyond Infosys for employment, and will they be employable after just the two years of the program at CCRI?

ALSSID: Infosys is committed to hiring 10,000 American workers to help invent and deliver the digital future for clients in the United States. While Infosys does not directly benefit from hiring all of the students it trains, it knows the indirect benefit it receives by fueling the economic growth of the IT industry in this country.

Students who participate in DEAL programming with Infosys will not only learn what is needed to be successful at Infosys, but also acquire transferable skills that can be used across industries in the new economy.

Mark S. Murphy is PBN’s editor. You can follow him on Twitter @PBNMurphy.