On behalf of the fourth largest industry and the 64,000-plus employees in the food service, lodging and tourism industries in Rhode Island, we’d like to say that the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and its Education Foundation are troubled by the April 2 Commentary piece by Mike Stenhouse and David Williams (“Chafee lards his budget with $225 million in waste”). The piece implies that the Governors Workforce Board should be eliminated and that “there is little indication that the board provides any value to workers, businesses, or taxpayers.”
The Rhode Island Hospitality Education Foundation is one of eight industry partners of the Governors Workforce Board. The work that is conducted under these contracts builds a vital link between employers and the state’s workforce system. As an industry partner, the Education Foundation’s commitment is to:
•Act as a liaison between hospitality employers and the state’s workforce system.
•Advise the state’s workforce system on industry specific certifications and occupational skills needed for employment and career advancement.
•Provide pre-employment and occupational skills training for youth, unemployed and under-employed Rhode Islanders.
•Build career awareness and career pathways so that our youth and unemployed Rhode Islanders see a clear future in the industry of their choice.
•Connect with other industry partners to share best practices and provide opportunities for transferrable skills.
The most telling results are the numerous graduates of our pre-employment and occupational skills classes who are not only employed, but also on a career track and have come off of state assistance.
The investment that the Governors Workforce Board makes in our residents is much deeper than Messrs. Stenhouse and Williams suggest. As a workforce system, we are providing a future not only for the Rhode Islanders who need employment training and a career path but also for their children.
As a 2012 graduate of Skills Tasks and Results Training wrote: “I am a hospitality student and I have gained a great deal from this training program. It has challenged me intellectually, academically and, best of all, it has given me a chance to come off state assistance, to afford my daily needs and to provide a better home for me and my daughter.”
We would invite anyone who doesn’t believe in the Governors Workforce Board to hear the stories of our achievements. From the housekeeping employee who, after receiving training, was promoted to guest services to the recovering addict who has since come off state assistance and is working full-time, the Governors Workforce Board is having a profound and identifiable impact on the people of Rhode Island. Their investments are preparing youth and adults with stackable industry certifications, collegiate credits, scholarships and a sustainable future.
Of equal importance to the value perceived by training recipients is the overwhelming positive response from the business community.
As Mark Gervais, general manager of the Hotel Viking, wrote: “The training offered through the Education Foundation is second to none. Employees at the Hotel Viking have benefited from this training, including ‘Hospitality: The 3rd Language’ and my personal favorite, ‘First Impressions: The Core of Communication.’ I’d like to thank the entire staff of the Education Foundation for their commitment to the industry and for their exceptional skills in preparing people for career growth.”
We are in complete agreement that if Rhode Island’s economy is to improve, we need responsible and accountable spending decisions. However, cutting funds to the programs that enable Rhode Island citizens to gain employment while achieving independence from public assistance is not the solution.
Dale J. Venturini is president and CEO of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and its Education Foundation. Heather R. Singleton is senior vice president for education at the Rhode Island Hospitality Education Foundation.