November 27, 2014
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NEIT christens shipbuilding, marine trades program
Kelcy Dolan
Sun Rise photos
CHRISTENING: Cheryl Connors, senior VP of NETech, “christened” the program as one would a boat. She broke a bottle over a makeshift submarine front.

New England Institute of Technology (NETech) has a new opportunity for the unemployed of Rhode Island. A new program, Shipbuilding/Marine and Advanced manufacturing Institute (SAMI), provides students with a cost free educational experience that provides them with skills necessary to enter and succeed in the 21st century job market.

On Monday NETech officially launched the new program at NETech’s Post Road campus. Numerous government officials, NETech professionals, and industry leaders attended the event to wish the program success.

The vice president of corporate education and training, Steve Kitchin, opened the ceremony. He explained that through the United States Department of Labor, the Governor’s Workforce Board of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Foundation, the program is cost free to accepted students. The three organizations awarded NETech a $2.5 million grant to educate the workforce for today’s manufacturing jobs.

Kitchin said, “New England Tech has a 75-year tradition of hands-on training to prepare the future workforce. SAMI is a major step forward in assisting Rhode Island’s unemployed. We received guidance from industry leaders to create a program that would train people with the skills that employers are looking for.”

The program, with open entry and exit, allows students to use their previous knowledge and work at their ability level. Kitchin hopes to see 400 students go through the program by next October.

Senator Jack Reed said Rhode Island has jobs, but not enough skilled workers to fill them. He believes SAMI is an initiative that can help lower the skills gap.

He said, “It is terribly important that we have individuals training for jobs that are there and jobs that will be there tomorrow.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said, “We are in a world trade economy now and there is no going back. There are going to be folks who win and folks who lose.”

He explained that the “folks” who lose are those manufacturing workers who lose their jobs to foreign industries. He believed SAMI would help train and retain workers because it didn’t only serve students. The curriculum and a lot of reference and influence from employers for the specific skills they need on their work force.

Congressman James Langevin said, “In the Ocean State, we have a ship building tradition. With this 2.5 million grant and the hard work from everyone involved, we are going to have a continuation of that legacy.”

Those in attendance commented on the collaboration efforts to make sure this program succeeded.

Congressman David Cicilline thanked everyone for their attendance and help in securing the program. He mentioned that there were private and public sector efforts from across state and federal and local governments.

Mayor Scott Avedisian of Warwick said, “Everyone left their individual silos and worked together to better our state. New England Tech is growing in leaps and bounds. They are adapting and creating new programs and this program is a testament to everyone’s hard work.”

Avedisian mentioned that there have already been 100 students that have participated in the SAMI program and 90 percent of the students are already working good-paying, long-lasting jobs.

NETech had actually put the Post Road campus up for sale when they built the East Greenwich campus. NETech began re-purposing rooms of the building for their new programs and eventually took the building off the market. They now hold the SAMI classes at the campus.

“They are training students for niche markets, offering real job opportunities for our residents,” Avedisian said.

Sean Davies, the facilities manager of Electric Boat, spoke at the event. He has hired 20 of the students who went through and are going through the SAMI program.

Electric Boat was one of the businesses that had worked with NETech to create the SAMI curriculum. Other businesses NETech collaborated with include Senesco Marine, RI Carbide Tool, Guill Tool and Engineering, Swissline Precision, RI Marine Trades Association and the RI Manufacturers Association.

Donnie Daniel Jr., one of the first students to graduate from the SAMI program, was the last guest speaker for the event.

He said, “This was an opportunity of a lifetime. This program helped me find a job so I can provide for my family. It was a major turning point in my life.”

He wasn’t the only student who thought the SAMI program was essential to further their education.

After the event, everyone was invited to tour the new facilities for the SAMI program. Current students were in the workshop showing off some of their new skills and explaining the machinery to the tour groups.

Brian Reeves, who is in his fifth week of the program, said, “I have been in carpentry all my life. I wanted to re-educate myself in a field that is always going to be there.”

Steven Gal, also a student in the SAMI program, said that he had always wanted to further his education, but there were always financial and time constraints stopping him.

“I never thought it would have been a good thing to be unemployed, but now I am participating in this great educational opportunity because I finally have the time,” he said.

Electric Boat has already offered Gal a job and he hasn’t even finished the program.

For more information on SAMI or NETech, visit www.neit.edu or call 739-5000 ext. 3700.


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