Rhode Island, via a partnership between Governor Raimondo and the Legislature, continues to provide the targeted incentives needed to grow our economy. Local businesses are expanding and new businesses are relocating to Rhode Island once again. But while these incentives are essential in the short-term, they alone cannot not sustain the long-term economic growth we need to truly thrive.

One critical tool for sustained economic growth is a statewide K-20 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Strategic Plan. Such a plan would ensure our workforce meets the needs of high-skill, high-growth industries, such as: biomedical innovation, IT/software, defense, maritime trades, advanced business services, food, and custom manufacturing. Many states developed STEM Strategic Plans to align public education with workforce development, including neighboring Massachusetts, but Rhode Island has not.

Companies carefully consider a state’s workforce and education system before they invest, as evidenced by Amgen’s recent expansion (“Adding 150 jobs at RI’s Amgen, 4/11/18), “…the company’s experience in Rhode Island, coupled with the state’s ‘talented workforce’ and its offer of incentives, led to a decision to build here…” Workforce talent is particularly important in the defense economy, which is Rhode Island’s highest paying job sector. Undoubtedly, a STEM Strategic Plan would better position Rhode Island when the Department of Defense considers future investment and contracts.

While successful businesses need good processes, technology, and tools, the key ingredient is people.  Several K – 20 STEM education initiatives have achieved unprecedented results. These include Computer Science for All Rhode Islanders (CS4RI), Project Lead the Way, Pathways In Technology Early College High School Career and Technical Education programs, PrepareRI and the Wavemaker Fellowship.  Yet, even in light of this progress, Rhode Island lacks an overall framework in which these programs can complement each other and thrive.

The first step towards establishing this framework is a statewide assessment of programs led by our K-12 schools, colleges, and state agencies. Second, we must work with the private sector to understand statewide demand for STEM workforce. Once we’re aware of the current state of our workforce and our future need, we can proceed to thoughtfully outline a plan with specific, tactical steps to close the talent gap.

The right person must lead the development and implementation of Rhode Island’s STEM Strategic Plan. Implementation will not be a short term endeavor. Rather, it will be a multi-year effort requiring sustained investment and stakeholder support. We must stay the course and not waiver. I, for one, will assist in this process to ensure Rhode Island’s workforce is ready and able. Our economic future depends on it!

Lou DiPalma – Senator, District 12 (Middletown, Little Compton, Tiverton and Newport)

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a move they made in 2021. Read more about that here - https://whatsupnewp.com/2021/09/letter-from-the-publisher-some-personal-news/

Belmore visits Newport every couple of weeks to support the 12+ paid contributors What'sUpNewp has on the ground across Rhode Island, a place he called home for 39 years.

Belmore is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
Belmore can be contacted at ryan@whatsupnewp.com and 401-662-1653.