RIT Certified receives grants totaling $1.6 million

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Rochester Institute of Technology’s unit that targets workforce development and professional training has earned grants worth $1.6 million.

The funds—a total of three grants—support RIT Certified’s “Promoting Choice: Alternative Pathways into Work and Economic Mobility” initiative. The effort aims to offer employer-driven, competency-based workforce training and wraparound support with community and industry partners. It is designed to reduce the barriers to participation and work for historically marginalized communities in Greater Rochester, officials say.

The state Office of Strategic Workforce Development, under Empire State Development, will provide dollars to develop training for six programs for manufacturing technicians, information technology support analysts, cyber-defense analysts, skilled tradespeople, health care careers and building construction managers. It allocated $999,000 to the project.

“RIT Certified and the funding made available for this work are a demonstration of the commitment of higher education, government, and foundations coming together to ensure educational opportunities for job acquisition are aligned with the needs of employers and individuals in the workforce,” says Dennis Di Lorenzo, executive director of RIT Certified. “The partnership of community organizations, employers, and RIT Certified is evidence of the huge shift that is occurring in the education and employment landscape.”

Community partners include L3Harris Technologies, the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, RochesterWorks!, and the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association. The work also will include partnerships with up to 20 more regional employers.

“Innovations within high technology operations today are evolving at lightning speed, and the need for skilled advanced manufacturing technicians has never been higher,” says Renee Swan, vice president of human resources at L3Harris.

Swan views the partnership as a way for people to join a field with advancement opportunities. For businesses, it is an assurance of a pipeline of skilled professionals.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation ($300,000) and ESL Charitable Foundation ($300,000) are supporting the research and build of the skills and assessment frameworks for the training programs. It is expected to create an impactful, new model of education.

“Education and employment are priorities at ESL, and we will continue to help our community thrive and prosper through our work and support organizations that value working in partnerships for the benefit of our community,” says Ajamu Kitwana, vice president of community impact at ESL, calling out the program’s holistic approach.

The skills framework, RIT says, places the employer at the center of the curriculum. Funds will help with research and work with industry experts and employers on those frameworks that describe what an employee must know and be able to do on their first day of work in a new role. It will include indicators of excellence that will assist with assessment and curriculum design.

“The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is thrilled to support this new and innovative workforce initiative at RIT, which will help move the region in a meaningful way toward the adoption of skills-based hiring practices and open access to high-quality, in-demand jobs to a diverse talent pool in Rochester,” says Susan Dundon, director of the young adults and working families grantmaking at the foundation.  

Wraparound services will be available for students and employers through the training process. This collaboration will meet workforce needs and develop individual careers with incomes that will support families and promote upward mobility, says Aqua Porter, executive director of RMAPI.

RTMA will play the role of connector. It will link RIT Certified with technology and manufacturing employers in the region. Robert Coyne, RTMA executive director, notes that advancing pathways for advanced manufacturing careers will have a positive impact.

The RIT Certified project was one of eight across the state awarded funds through the first round of the Capital and Pay for Performance Grant Programs. Officials say the project is an implementation of recommendations in the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s 2020 strategic plan.

RIT Certified launched last year with a goal to close the workforce talent gap. At the time, Di Lorenzo said a measure of success would be growing the region’s job economy.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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