One of the things I think about the most is the future of my kids. I know I'm not alone in this.
It is deeply concerning to me that we in Rhode Island bring kids into the world, raise them carefully, provide them with a good education – and then send them away to live and work because job opportunities in R.I. just aren't there.
We need to make some changes. We can't build an entire future around tourism or health care – currently the state's two largest employers. And while we do have a long history of manufacturing, we're behind the curve in STEM disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – the things that are driving today's economy, and tomorrow's. It's a chicken-or-egg situation: We're not producing enough graduates with these skills, or attracting the companies that need them most. And every state in the union is competing for these same businesses and same jobs!
As a business owner, I can attest to the fact that business requirements have changed, and the skills we are looking to hire today are not those we needed yesterday. As a result, we sometimes have to go elsewhere to get some things done. Other businesses are aware of this, and hesitate to put down roots in Rhode Island because of our skills and knowledge shortage.
The net-net of all this is, the job market in R.I. for high school AND college graduates is pretty slim. There are some good jobs available, but not enough to match the numbers of kids we graduate each year.
Are we focused enough on this issue? Are we doing enough to fix it? Should it be fixed? Do we owe R.I. kids a future beyond school?
It would be interesting to hear your views.
[In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm a candidate for State Representative for District 30 (East Greenwich and the eastern portion of West Greenwich). Elizabeth McNamara, editor of East Greenwich Patch, invited me (and other candidates) to blog "from the campaign trail," and a blog here seemed a perfect opportunity to gather community input on some of the ideas I have been talking about in my campaign.]