President Di Pasquale shares news from White House forum

Dec. 4, 2009

CCRI President Ray M. Di Pasquale

As many of you know, yesterday I had the opportunity to represent Rhode Island and CCRI at the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth. In summary, it was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life and I am grateful to Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin for nominating me as Rhode Island’s sole representative.

I was one of about 130 business leaders, union chiefs, economists, members of academia, and others that were brought together at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House, for the forum.

The session began with opening remarks by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis who reported on workforce demographics. She introduced Vice President Joe Biden who, in turn, introduced the president. President Obama told the gathering that chronic unemployment is a struggle that cuts deep and touches people across the nation. My impression was that the president seemed frustrated in how difficult it is in getting people together to fix things. President Obama was so genuine; he attended the workshops and mingled with the attendees.

Following the opening remarks, attendees broke down into smaller panels working on such topics as infrastructure construction, development of new “green” jobs, the needs of small businesses, and exports and trade.

I was part of the session on Preparing Workers and Strengthening Main Street that was moderated by Secretary Solis and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes. The focus was on what we need to do when the economy recovers. We discussed the need to take the necessary steps to retrain workers in fields that are no longer growing and better prepare the next generation of the workforce for the jobs and economy of the future.

I had the opportunity to talk to Secretary Solis one-on-one and I told her about the college’s partnership with the Newport Skills Alliance and the various certificate programs offered by the college to get people trained and into the workforce in a relatively short period of time.

While I didn’t have the opportunity to address the president directly, I would have expressed my thanks to him for putting community colleges in the national spotlight and offering legislation to make available $12 billion to assist community colleges nationwide.

This afternoon, I spoke with Congressman Langevin about the highlights of the forum and I will be preparing a summary for him early next week. I also expect to share additional details with the college community over the next several days.