Initiative aims to bridge workforce talent gap

The latest offering from Rochester Institute of Technology expects to meet the demands of a changing job market. Launched today, RIT Certified aims to stimulate the economy and promote professional mobility in the region, the nation and around the world.

A roundtable of key employers, local government leaders, economic development officials and higher education experts kicked off the RIT certification. With a portfolio of alternative education courses, certificate programs, and competency-based learning experiences, the unit targets those looking to enter the workforce, change roles, retain employment present or progress in their career. The first set of programs will be available in the fall.

“We started this conversation about 18 months ago,” says Dennis Di Lorenzo, Commercial Director of RIT Certified. “RIT has always been committed to Rochester and the region, the development of the workforce and the economic development of the city. And it really seemed like a natural evolution.

Di Lorenzo, who joined the university last October, conducted an analysis of RIT’s portfolio and its alignment with labor economics. His team spoke with faculty and industry to better understand where the program matches skill needs.

The RIT-certified leadership team includes Dennis Di Lorenzo, left, Therese Hannigan and Ian Mortimer. (Photo: RIT)

Di Lorenzo, who served as a higher education consultant and dean of the School of Professional Studies at New York University, found that the community wanted to fill the skills and talent gap in the region, attract new businesses and offer training and development opportunities for employees.

“It was acknowledged that I think the local community was a bit apathetic and disillusioned, simply because there wasn’t as much training and development there to get them into work,” notes- he. “But there was this great desire for higher education to get together with government, get together with employers, get together with nonprofits, focused on this work. RIT is very well placed to be the organizer of all these groups.

The unit offers a mix of courses, building on the strengths of RIT and its partnerships with area employers. For example, in its Arts and Design offering, students can become proficient in virtual production and digital art using traditional skills and the latest technologies. Behavioral health, respiratory therapy and pre-nursing courses are in demand for these professionals.

“RIT Certified is a key partner for employers, ensuring better metrics to assess talent as they recruit, so they can hire people who get started on day one,” says Ian Mortimer, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Associate Provost for RIT Certified.

Cybersecurity, another core strength of RIT, enables learners to enter or advance in the field, while healthcare administration, law, technology and engineering also expand opportunities for applied education. . RIT certification is also aimed at high school students, a cohort considered by many to be a high-potential cohort, who can explore industries. The length of each program varies.

“What we’re really trying to do is break down the competency outcomes of each certificate program and subject area, focused on a set of roles and jobs,” says Di Lorenzo. “And based on those skill outcomes, it could be three months, it could be six months, it could be a year really aligned with what the program should be to get the individual to where they need to go.”

Students will self-select into programs through open enrollment, with some sponsored by employers. RIT Certified also plans to incorporate a career guidance component so that students can identify courses that match their strengths. Students can participate in RIT certification on a course-by-course basis.

“We are committed to providing relevant, flexible and accessible educational pathways to work,” said Therese Hannigan, Learning Experience Manager at RIT Certified.

Area community colleges offer training and certificate programs. However, RIT Certified tackles workforce development with the infrastructure of a four-year degree institution, says Di Lorenzo, who credits community colleges with teaching a core curriculum. fundamental.

Employers often view four-year degree programs as a source of entry-level professional jobs, but would like to upgrade current talent without an advanced degree, he says, or advance an employee through a career with new skills. .

“I think four-year institutions have an obligation to bring this knowledge, expertise and resources to a wider population who may want to pursue an alternative education just for that next job, not for a full investment in their career. at one point. explains Di Lorenzo.

Although job postings fell to 11.4 million nationwide at the end of April, they remain high, according to the latest job posting and job rotation summary from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Layoffs are at an all time high, workers remain scarce and employers are struggling to find suitable talent.

Employment in the Finger Lakes region, which includes Monroe County, was 568,600 at the end of April, compared with a year ago, according to New York state data. The unemployment rate was 3.1%, down from 5.4% in April 2021.

RIT Certified hopes to further improve the situation and increase access to talent. It plans to use an outcome-based approach to measure impact with various metrics, from the number of students applying to whether the skills have made a learner more effective in their role.

“The success is really going to be, have we contributed to a growing jobs economy in the region?” said DiLorenzo. “Are students coming out of certification (RIT) at different levels of the workforce really successfully contributing to that workforce?… If we impact them at different points in this (employment ), so I think we did something right.”

Smriti Jacob is editor of Rochester Beacon. The Beacon welcomes feedback from readers who adhere to our comment policy including the use of their full real name.

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