Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner manages and operates three workforce development centers in Rhode Island. They are truly cross-agency facilities, with the public and private colleges and universities; state agencies; business and industry; and not-for profit agencies. The coursework ranges from GED studies offered by a local NGO to master’s level engineering courses from the public research university; short-term training in shipbuilding trades for a major employer to certificate-level nursing and first aid programs. Regardless of the level, all of the offerings are an effort to make postsecondary degrees and credentials available to persons seeking to attain them for their careers.
Research shows that the knowledge and skills of workers affects business and economic growth. Those with postsecondary education and workforce training realize higher wages and lifetime earnings. Increasing access to career training and incentivizing those who are educated in Rhode Island to stay in the state are essential to creating a more prosperous economy.
The data is undeniable that completing postsecondary credentialing improves earnings, is it absolutely essential for Rhode Island to continue to build workforce training access in our state in order to address equity gaps. Attainment gaps exist for a variety of reasons, and OPC is committed to making sure every student has the support, resources, and opportunities to be successful.
It is estimated that 72 percent of R.I. jobs by 2030 will require education beyond high school, but as of today only 53% of working-age adults have completed a postsecondary credential in the state. The education centers are one strategy boost the attainment rate and prepare the workforce for high-wage, in-demand jobs.
Westerly Education Center uniquely supports the efforts of the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner to increase postsecondary attainment in southern Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut. The center delivers high-quality education to meet projected workforce growth in the region. Located on Friendship Street in Westerly, R.I., Westerly Education Center is a public-private collaboration that offers a wide variety of instruction ranging from GED to graduate-level courses. The center opened in 2017 and has since provided education and training to >10,000 adult students.
The facility offers instructional classrooms, computer laboratories, science labs and customized space for hands-on, industry-ready training programs. General Dynamics/Electric Boat is the anchor business partner. The center delivers instruction in maritime trades that enables General Dynamics/Electric Boat in meeting contracted work on Virginia-class and Columbia-class nuclear submarines.
A half hull submarine mock-up, rigging gantry, virtual reality painting device, and other equipment and tools are used to augment classroom instruction with hands-on practice.
Private businesses and organizations rent classrooms for their own trainings or meetings. The center’s staff leverage relationships with the institutions of higher education to help build customized curricula when needed, and they promote small business incumbent worker education.
Woonsocket Education Center is a new workforce training and education center that delivers high-quality education to meet projected workforce growth in the northeast region of the state. Modeled after OPC;s highly successful Westerly Education Center, this center addresses access to higher education and works to improve attainment of postsecondary degrees, certifications and industry-recognized credentials. By increasing access to postsecondary attainment, this center will help transform the workforce from soon-to-be-obsolete jobs to new, longer-term, and more lucrative career pathways.
Opened in 2022, Woonsocket Education Center in comprised of instructional classrooms, computer lab space, and a CVS Health Workforce Innovation Talent Center, which features a CVS Pharmacy simulated retail environment for hands-on career skills training in high-demand fields.
The state’s public institutions of higher education offer both for-credit and workforce training courses; private businesses and organizations may rent classrooms for their own trainings or meetings. The center’s staff leverage relationships with colleges and universities to help build customized curricula when needed, and they promote small business incumbent worker education.
Rhode Island Nursing Education Center (RINEC) is a collaborative undertaking of the Rhode Island College School of Nursing and the University of Rhode Island College of Nursing. RINEC, overseen by the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, is located on the first three floors of South Street Landing (the former Narragansett Electric Lighting Co.) and serves as a Providence-based facility for baccalaureate, masters and doctoral level studies.
The various learning spaces – classrooms, labs, simulation suites, study areas – are all shared facilities between the two institutions. This collaborative, shared approach is in support of RINEC’s mission to provide a state-of-the-art center for the education of aspiring and practicing nurses who will lead the transformation of healthcare in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island is home to a number of private, occupational and proprietary schools that offer training and education in a specific career. Most award a certificate or industry-recognized credential necessary for work in that field.
RIGL §16-40 authorizes OPC to approve all private occupational and proprietary schools operating in Rhode Island.
A proprietary school is any organization, association, corporation, partnership, limited liability corporation (LLC), sole proprietorship, or any other entity operated on a for‐profit or on a non‐profit basis that operates or seeks to operate to provide instruction or training for a business, trade, technical, industrial or other occupation, and that is not specifically exempted under postsecondary regulations. Proprietary schools grant no awards above the pre‐associate certificate level.
Pursuant to the Regulations Governing Proprietary Schools, unless a school has been granted an exemption by Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, all schools operating or seeking to operate in Rhode Island must abide by the Standards of Operation as described in Section IV of the above regulations.