RIC to open new workforce development hub at former Dexter Credit Union site

RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE is set to open a workforce development hub in Central Falls Wednesday. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE
RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE is set to open a workforce development hub in Central Falls Wednesday. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE

CENTRAL FALLS – Sensing a need to help address workforce skills gaps in Rhode Island, one state college will open this week its new workforce development hub that will aim to boost the local economy in multiple facets.

Rhode Island College will cut the ribbon on its new hub Wednesday evening from 5-7 p.m. at the former Dexter Credit Union building at 934 Dexter St.

A speaking program will take place at 5:30 p.m., followed by tours of the hub.

RIC President Frank D. Sanchez told PBN Tuesday the project started two years ago when he sat down with Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa, Central Falls School Superintendent Stephanie Downey-Toledo and local business leaders to help create a positive economic future for the city. That partnership – the CF/RIC Collective – lead to the city purchasing the former credit union building from Navigant Credit Union for $1.2 million, most of the cost covered via a $1 million grant from R.I. Housing. It cost $500,000 for RIC to then renovate the building, the college said.

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Additionally, with the new Blackstone Valley Community Health Center that recently opened on Chestnut Street and the new Pawtucket/Central Falls train station set to be completed within the next 18 months, Sanchez said this hub could provide residents in the Blackstone Valley and beyond expanded access to workforce training programs to help the state’s economy.

“We believe this will change and alter the entire ecosystem, and drive the economy of Central Falls and Blackstone Valley,” Sanchez said. “That was kind of the original thinking in the creation of the Central Falls collective and the work we’ve been doing since.”

“For me to see this facility come to fruition, this really is the dream,” said Jenifer Giroux, associate vice president of professional studies and continuing education at RIC. “We have constantly been working to expand our programming to find adequate space and the learning environment these adults deserve.”

RIC said the hub will offer various certificate, credit and noncredit programs through the college’s professional studies and continuing education department, and anticipates to serve more than 300 adults in its inaugural year of operation. Among the programs being offered are bookkeeping and accounting training, medical assistant training, a certificate of undergraduate study in social and human service assistance, three levels of noncredit English as a second language programs, and noncredit certificate programs in behavior health training, community health worker training, leadership development for health care professionals and Microsoft Office.

RIC also plans to work with the business community to develop “in-demand incumbent worker” training programs.

The hub will build on its existing partnerships with the Central Falls School Department, local nonprofit Progreso Latino and the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, as well as Gilbane Inc. and Trilix. Giroux said RIC will also work with area nonprofit Skills for Rhode Island’s Future to help recruit students for education opportunities and job placement.

“We’re looking to partner with like-minded organizations and institutions so that we can provide the best service without duplicating efforts,” Giroux said.

Diossa, R.I. Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor, R.I. Department of Labor and Training Director Scott Jensen, R.I. Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp. Executive Director Carol Ventura and R.I. Council on Postsecondary Education Chairman Timothy DelGiudice are expected to be in attendance Wednesday to open the hub.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com.

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