The State of Working Rhode Island 2017: Paving the Way to Good Jobs

In the face of a rapidly evolving economy, Rhode Island’s education and workforce systems need to keep pace, to meet the dual needs of workers (who need to remain employable), and employers (who need skilled workers to produce the goods and provide the services demanded by consumers). As we invest in the Rhode Island workforce, we need to ensure that the existing workforce, especially those currently lacking English language and other foundational skills or higher levels of education, are able to fully engage in the economy, by providing them with the opportunity to “skill up” to shape a more prosperous future for their families, and for Rhode Island.

This report focuses on the role that both education and training play in helping workers thrive, drawing on research at the national and state level to better understand the strategies that work to improve adult education, especially for those currently working in low-wage, lower skilled jobs. While formal postsecondary education – in the form of an Associate’s degree, a Bachelor’s degree, or higher – may be the right path for many, others can benefit from attaining occupational credentials, either via apprenticeship programs, or college-based certificate programs.

Because there will remain many low-skilled jobs, we need to adopt policies that raise the floor for those workers – so that full-time work offers both dignity of work and a livable wage. And we need to be intentional about addressing disparities based on race and ethnicity – such as persist in educational attainment, unemployment rates, and median wages.