Rhode Island's $45 million plan to retrain and reskill isn't just a major partnership with Salesforce, Microsoft, and others. It could be a blueprint for reviving the national economy.

Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo.Steven Senne/AP
  • Rhode Island has a plan to use CARES Act funding to bring jobs back to the state.
  • A private-public partnership called "Back to Work RI" will support displaced workers with critical training to help them navigate a job market upended by the coronavirus.
  • The state is partnering on the $45 million plan with companies including Bank of America, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Twitter, as well as major unions and nonprofits.
  • It could be more than a solution for just Rhode Island. Microsoft President Brad Smith says it's just what the country needs, too.

Rhode Island is using $45 million of federal stimulus funding to fast-track its economic comeback, and it's lined up an impressive roster of private-sector partners. But it could be more than that.

The state's "Back to Work RI" initiative could be a model for how government and business will work together to revive the economy.

The initiative intends to bring thousands of job opportunities to Rhode Islanders displaced by COVID-19 and help break down traditional barriers to hiring using CARES Act funding. The approach shifts Rhode Island from the old "train and pray" model, as the state's press release calls it, to "a new paradigm – train, support, and hire."Advertisement

"Getting Rhode Islanders back to work doesn't mean returning to the old way of doing business," Gov. Gina Raimondo said during a Facebook live event announcing the initiative. "We need to give Rhode Islanders the skills and support they need to succeed in the new economy while building pathways to good jobs for people who have traditionally faced barriers to employment."

Partners include companies such as Amgen, Bank of America, CVS Health, Microsoft, Raytheon, Salesforce, and Twitter, unions such as the Laborers' International Union of North America and Service Employees International Union, and nonprofits such as Care New England Health System. Every participating employer will sign a pledge to open opportunities to Rhode Islanders.

On the Facebook live event, Microsoft President Brad Smith said, "This is all about the formula, because I do think this is precisely the right kind of formula that not just Rhode Island but the whole nation needs," adding that these kinds of partnerships matter most to deliver meaningful skills to the workforce.
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According to the state's press release, the program will offer new resources to foster skill development and will create immediate roles that focus on higher-paying, sustainable jobs in sectors such as healthcare, financial services, and IT.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff echoed that sentiment, saying business is the perfect platform for change and committing to creating 3 million new jobs by 2023. "If we embrace this opportunity and supercharge the collaborative approach to job training that has helped us rebound over the past six years, " Raimondo said, "Rhode Island's economy will be stronger, more equal, and more resilient than ever before."Advertisement

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