Magazine article Management Review

Pilot Programs in the Ocean State

Magazine article Management Review

Pilot Programs in the Ocean State

Article excerpt


To the readers of The Wall Street Journal, Republican Governor Edward DiPrete of Rhode Island is a familiar figure--an affable, husky guy with rolled up sleeves, leaning over copy proclaiming himself as a governor "12 years ahead of the times." Ah yes, you think. Another politician full of hyperbole and bluster.

Not this time. DiPrete has developed "Workforce 2000," one of the nation's most innovative programs to study the future labor force.

The story begins in January 1988. DiPrete knew that he had to do something about the shortage of young workers in his state. He also wanted to tackle other thorny issues: globalization; changing technology in the workplace; the plight of the underclass. So, through the power of executive order, DiPrete enacted Workforce 2000, the sponsoring agency of a number of innovative pilot programs that address these issues.

To launch and sustain this project, DiPrete tapped 35 top business, labor, education and government leaders for his Workforce 2000 Council. (The Council, through its five subcommittees, examines and approves potential programs; reviews those programs upon completion; and supplies the project with up-to-date labor statistics analysis.) DiPrete also enacted the Job Development Fund to finance the project. This fund directs 0.01 percent of the unemployment tax on Rhode Island's payroll into Workforce 2000's coffers--a war chest of roughly $4 million a year.

How does Workforce 2000 work? The idea for a pilot program usually comes from the council or one of the project's six staff members. Occasionally an unsolicited program, developed by an outside nonprofit organization, is also adopted. Full Council approval is necessary before a program is formally adopted and funded. Usually, pilot programs are administered by one or more government agencies or nonprofit groups, with a Workforce 2000 staff person overseeing the process. Most of the pilot programs last for a year.

Is Workforce 2000 working? The following programs, just a small sample of those launched so far, provide the answer:

* Choices, Workforce 2000's flagship intervention program for at-risk city youth, takes place on the campus of the Alternative Learning Project--a Providence high school made up of students who have dropped out of or been expelled from other Providence schools--and at the offices of the Urban League. According to Jeneata Aldrich, the program's founder/coordinator, seed money was provided by Workforce 2000, with the Urban League providing administrative backup. "Choices" teaches practical life skills, such as how to interview for a job and how to budget money. Students are also exposed to the arts: a natural step, since Aldrich is a professional mezzo-soprano. Best of all, the program gets teenagers to start thinking about work options. "Every student is required to establish a career goal," says Dennis Bouchard, Workforce 2000's program director. "When school is out in the summer, students are placed in jobs that match their career ideals. For example, a student wanting to become a doctor is placed in a healthcare facility, so that he or she will see MDs at work. When the students return to school in September, they're asked to reconfirm their career ideal or change it," Bouchard adds. …

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