Langevin in Quonset to Close the Skills Gap

Jun 7, 2011 Issues: Economy and Jobs, Education, Small Business

Recognizing that successfully growing Rhode Island’s business community is dependent on training a qualified workforce, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) made a series of stops in Quonset Business Park today to address ways to create a better environment for companies to expand and create jobs. Langevin, who co-chairs the Career and Technical Education Caucus, focused particularly on strengthening the partnership between our education and business sectors to ensure students acquire the skills required to fill openings in growing industries. During tours of Ultra Scientific Analytical Solutions, a chemical lab, and Hayward Industries, which manufactures state-of-the-art electronic equipment for pools, he and company leaders discussed ways to better prepare our workforce.

“As I visit companies throughout my District, I hear repeatedly that the students being trained in our schools are not graduating with the ability to fill job openings that exist, particularly in high-tech fields,” said Langevin. “Recently, one business owner told me he is spending more than 30 thousand dollars a year to train new hires and still has multiple openings he can’t fill, even with so many Rhode Islanders looking for work.”

President John Russo led today's discussion at Ultra Scientific Analytical Solutions, which assists the laboratory community by providing scientists in environmental, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, life science and molecular testing laboratories with tools to most effectively conduct research. At Hayward Industries, Manufacturing Manager Robert Hughes and Director of Engineering James Murdock addressed the needs of the high-tech pool equipment manufacturer, which is planning to expand and place a greater emphasis on energy efficient products.

As a starting point for better engaging the business community in training its future workforce, Langevin mentioned ideas he has proposed. For example, the state needs better collaboration between its Economic Development Corporation and the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, which have only one common member. In addition, students must have accessible internship opportunities in job-creating fields.

“We must listen to the needs of our local businesses and make sure we are best preparing students for cutting edge fields, like biotechnology and energy efficiency, that will drive the economy of the 21st century. Companies like Ultra Scientific and Hayward Industries are doing this kind of work and we need to do everything we can to give these types of businesses the opportunity to start and grow in our state by hiring local people.”

Earlier in the day, Langevin addressed another key factor in building up Rhode Island’s economy during a stop at Seafreeze, LTD, the largest producer of sea frozen fish on the East Coast and a supplier to markets throughout the world. Understanding the vital role of the fishing industry in the state’s economy, he met with Vice President Geir Monson and spoke with employees about policies that best support local fishermen.

Langevin expressed his support for the effort that brought an assessment team from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to Point Judith to engage the fishing community in developing solutions for problems resulting from the economic downturn. The EDA will publish its findings and offer technical assistance to implement them.

“Concerned Members of Congress have urged the Department of Commerce for the past few years to recognize that New England’s fishing communities, which play such an integral role in our economy, are struggling,” said Langevin. “I believe we are moving in the right direction, but need to ensure accountability for those involved in this project to make sure they follow through by addressing fishermen’s concerns.”