$375k Congressionally Directed Spending request will support process to create new credential program
North Kingstown, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today joined representatives of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce and the offshore wind industry to announce $375,000 in federal funding for the creation of a new offshore wind energy Career and Technical Education (CTE) certification through the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE). The Congressionally Directed Spending request submitted by Whitehouse was included in the omnibus bill that President Joe Biden signed into law in March.
“Thanks in large part to this federal funding, Rhode Island high school students will soon be able to graduate with a credential to help them land a well-paying job in the growing offshore wind industry,” said Whitehouse, one of the Senate’s leading champions for renewable energy. “I’m grateful to the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce for having the vision to further develop Rhode Island’s competitive advantage on offshore wind. I will continue to do everything in my power to get more clean, reliable green energy on the grid and to make sure the future of offshore wind production is right here in the Ocean State.”
The new certification will be available to all Rhode Island high school students, creating a robust talent pipeline of graduates with the specialized skills to land a job in the offshore wind industry as it ramps up. The North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce previously established WindWinRI, the nation’s first and only offshore wind career pathway high school certificate program. WindWinRI has been successfully beta tested and implemented at North Kingstown, Charles E. Shea, Block Island, Exeter West Greenwich, and Warwick Career and Technical High Schools. Building on its experience implementing WindWinRI, the Chamber plans to develop a new offshore wind energy CTE program that will be available to any interested school in Rhode Island. Students will have access to an offshore wind energy education and work-based learning opportunities to gain transferrable skill sets and ultimately, a CTE certification.
“Based on our experience in designing, building, and implementing the nation’s first offshore wind energy high school program certification, we thank Senator Whitehouse for awarding the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce a Congressionally Directed Spending project. We look forward to working with our industry and educational partners to establish an offshore wind energy Rhode Island Department of Education-approved CTE program. This will provide the state of Rhode Island a robust talent pipeline starting with high school graduates. Additionally, this supports Rhode Island’s Blue Economy initiative,” said Kristin Urbach, Executive Director of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce and WindWinRI.
The primary federal law relating to CTE, the Perkins Act, provides annual funding to RIDE for approved CTE programs. The North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce is working with RIDE and the State CTE Board to establish the offshore wind CTE program for Rhode Island secondary schools. Additionally, the Chamber plans to design new offshore wind-related programming for middle and elementary school students.
“RIDE is deeply committed to career and technical education because it helps prepare our students for rewarding careers of the future,” said Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “It is hard to think of a future career path with more growth potential for Rhode Islanders than wind energy and the blue economy. We’re excited about building more wind energy programs in our schools through this investment made possible with the leadership of Senator Whitehouse.”
A curriculum for the CTE program will be developed with input from offshore wind industry partners to ensure graduates are equipped with in-demand skills.
“The creation of a new offshore wind energy Career and Technical Education certification program is a critical milestone as we prepare the next generation of offshore wind energy workers,” said David Ortiz, Head of Northeast Government Affairs and Market Strategy, Ørsted. “We’re grateful to the Biden-Harris Administration and for Senator Whitehouse’s bipartisan leadership. Through this program, high school students can take advantage of hands-on training that will translate directly to careers in an American industry that started in Rhode Island and is rapidly-growing across the United States.”
In 2016, Rhode Island became home to America’s first offshore wind farm, which is now operated by Ørsted. The offshore wind industry is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years, as the Biden administration has set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.
Meaghan McCabe, (401) 453-5294