Career opportunities in manufacturing in Rhode Island are going unmet, not only because of a skills gap, but also because of a gap in information and interest among young people. "We need to work more with youth, to expose them to the possibilities in making things," says Jessica David, our Vice President of Strategy and Community Investments.
"Skills in manufacturing lead to good jobs and put kids on the path toward great careers. The Center for Dynamic Learning provides hands-on, industry-based education and training. It provides a model for how to work with students and industry. The Center’s program is exceptionally comprehensive. Because they have high standards of performance and professionalism and they have confidence in the students’ potential, they get results."
For the past three years, the Providence-based Center for Dynamic Learning has offered STEAMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and Manufacturing) training programs to youth in grades 6 through 12. Its SLIDE (Science Learning Industrial Design Engineering) program – which includes classes like Creative Design Engineering, Manufacturing for Change, and Mechanical Fabrication – has granted certificates of completion to more than 2,000 students.
Beth Cunha, the Center's co-founder and executive director of CDL, believes that education and workforce development go together, that they must work as partners. The paths being developed by educators and business leaders today include tracks that do not necessarily lead to college. “Let’s face it,” says Cunha, “some kids are not ready to go to college and that’s okay. Let’s look at the pathways and training structures that support them.”
Currently, the Center partners with Providence’s Met School and the Central Falls School District to teach engineering, fabrication, and manufacturing skills to their students. The students receive school credit for the hands-on experience. With recent funding from us, the Center aims to expand its reach by working directly with more middle and high schools throughout the state to recruit students for their career readiness programs.
One of the Center's core philosophies is ‘practicing professionals,’ which is introduced as early as age 11. “It’s essential that young people learn the ideas of professionalism, being a team member, planning, mentoring, and how to collaborate.”
One SLIDE activity involves high school students in a Manufacturing for Change course that focuses on the special needs of students at Meeting Street School in Providence. The SLIDE students design 3-D models and build prototypes to modify wheel chairs, walkers, and PT equipment, including modifying a walker so a student could carry a lunch tray while walking.
"The purpose is to inspire them to look into what type of field they can pursue: manufacturing, engineering, being a technician," says Cunha. “What makes the Center for Dynamic Learning unique and special is that we’re an equal partner on that journey.”