NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Tri-County Community Action Agency celebrated the opening of its new Occupational Training Center in North Kingstown with a ribbon cutting on Wednesday that included center staff and students.
The center is at Tri-Town’s 415 Tower Hill Road facility, in the brick building that once served as a parish center for St. Bernard Church.
Tri-County Executive Director Joseph DeSantis was joined by North Kingstown Rep. Robert Craven, North Kingstown Superintendent of Schools Phil Auger and program officials for the ribbon-cutting.
“We intend to grow and we intend to dedicate ourselves to this effort,” DeSantis said. “It’s not just about a handout. What you need to do is to help people help themselves, but we also need to do these kinds of programs. People have to have the motivation, the self-respect and dignity to want to move forward and help themselves, and that’s why it really is exciting to be here today.”
The Occupational Training Center was completed last spring, with funding from a private donation. The first round of services began in the summer, offering GED preparation, job training, computer literacy skills and summer youth employment.
Craven linked the program to a quote by President John F. Kennedy.
“He believed the most important thing government could do was give a hand up, not a hand-out,” he said. “This program is a hand up. It gives you the opportunity to incorporate yourself in the economy, to get a job where you can sustain yourself.”
Auger said the program has worked closely with the town’s school department.
“I know a number of our students have taken advantage of the programming,” he said. The center coordinates with the high school’s career and technical program, he said.
“We’re very interested in getting people employed,” he said.
Since July 1, a total of 71 clients have received services. Out of that total, 47 received summer employment, 46 earned a credential for training such as CPR and digital literacy, 40 returned to high school or postsecondary education, and 24 completed adult education, including GED preparation.
Job training and summer youth students held real-world job experiences with local businesses, including Shaw’s Market, Dave’s Marketplace, Cumberland Farms, Kingstown Crossings, Pet Refuge, Showcase Cinemas and the Wickford Yacht Club, to name a few.
The program offers occupational training in the same facility, Tri-County Director of Employment and Training Justin Waranis said.
“All of our students have the chance to connect to career counseling, case management services that will help them eliminate barriers, and transition to employment,” he said. “We’re very excited to be a conduit with North Kingstown High School. We’ve been able to connect hundreds of students with summer employment over the years.”
Tri-County also offers specific occupational training to at-risk clients in the South County area. The first training began in October.
Twelve adults are receiving Certified Nursing Assistant training, which will prepare them for health care jobs.
“I’m proud of all of you for being here and participating in these programs,” DeSantis told them.
One of those trainees is Thomas Jones, of Wakefield.
“This is going to help me and my fiancé save money and further my education,” he said.
Tri-County anticipates running at least three CNA trainings in the 2019-20 program year. The program partners with American Safety Programs and Training, Inc.
“This at the end of the day is about you guys,” American Safety Chief Officer Al Peterson told the students. “We’re going to have you being interviewed and getting hired for a job.” He asked them to give the program “110 percent,” and said 1,700 people are on a waiting list to take the CNA programs.
“They’d love to be where you are now,” he said.
Additional trainings will be offered beyond CNA, including Certified Homemaker, Customer Service Representative, MS Office Specialist and Tax Preparation Specialists. A total of 50 to 60 clients are expected to complete the various training sessions throughout the year.