A big DEAL for little Rhody and community colleges

Infosys President Ravi Kumar and Meghan Hughes, president of the Community College of Rhode Island, seal the partnership to develop and build the Digital Economy Aspirations Lab. Also pictured are Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island School of Design Provost Daniel Cavicchi and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. (Photos: CCRI)

Rhode Island is now home to one of the most significant experiments to align education and workforce development that will reap benefits for college students, employers and the digital economy.

At the center of this experiment are Infosys and the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI).

At the opening of the Infosys Design and Innovation Hub in the former Providence Journal headquarters in Rhode Island, a new collaboration between Infosys and CCRI was announced that has the potential to transform how employers perceive community colleges and set a model for the nation.

Infosys – a global leader in technology services and consulting – is all about helping corporations transition from legacy technology to the new economy, and it is doing so by collaborating with institutions of higher education to build a pipeline of “new collar” employees who possess the right mix of education and skills.

CCRI – the largest community college in New England – enrolls nearly 20,000 students and an additional 8,500 individuals in workforce development programs and adult education courses annually.

Collaborative effort

What are CCRI and Infosys inventing, and what does it mean for our students, our economy and community colleges across the country?

The Digital Economy Aspirations Labs (DEAL) will be a space for CCRI students to learn, to be curious, to explore and to have access to new technology and new ways of working with that technology.

CCRI and Infosys will research and develop customized curriculum tied to a four-year degree pathway with a focus on in-demand industries, including health care, defense, advanced business services and manufacturing. In addition, we will create a mentor program that will engage Infosys business teams to bolster career guidance for our students.

The collaboration with Infosys will create opportunities for CCRI students to gain exposure to the workplace of the future and build professional connections that historically have not been readily available to community college students.

Related article: Developing Rhode Island into an IT hub

The students who participate in DEAL will build upon their CCRI learning and skills to pursue a bachelor’s degree and beyond. Infosys will make this possible by providing training to complement the students’ education, mentors, job opportunities and tuition assistance for those the company hires, enabling our students to advance both academically and professionally.

DEAL will equip our students with computer science and software engineering skills and help them apply that learning to practical situations, with special emphasis on teamwork, project management, cross-functional networking and effective communication. The end goal is to increase the employability of CCRI students in the high-quality new-collar jobs of today and tomorrow.

Broader benefits

Infosys cultivates employees with a solid academic grounding and an ability to apply themselves in the real world. We know our students are capable of making a meaningful contribution to this workforce, and we are excited to launch this lab.

For Rhode Island, DEAL means the state not only has a seat at the table as Infosys builds out its U.S. workforce, it means Rhode Island is helping to set that table – a table focused on redesigning how business and industry collaborate with community colleges.

Infosys is committed to hiring 10,000 American workers to help invent and deliver the digital future for clients in the United States. While Infosys does not directly benefit from hiring all of the students it trains, it knows the indirect benefit it receives by fueling the economic growth of the IT industry in this country.

CCRI students who participate in DEAL will have access to the latest technology through the Infosys innovation hub.

What truly makes this partnership so innovative is the plan to use DEAL as a model that can be replicated to scale across community colleges. At the core of its commitment to workforce development in the United States is Infosys’ prioritization to build partnerships with institutions of higher education, especially community colleges.

As part of this collaboration, Infosys and CCRI will establish a national advisory board consisting of business, industry, education, and policy leaders to extend the work of DEAL throughout the country and across industry sectors.

With nearly half of all college students attending community college, Infosys hopes to tap into this underutilized yet extremely talented pool of individuals, bring them into the mainstream technology arena and train and develop them to be successful for the ‘new collar’ digital jobs.

In Infosys, we have found a bold and visionary partner that understands the talent community college students possess and the essential contributions community colleges must make to grow the digital economy and the middle class.

About the Author

Meghan Hughes and Julian Alssid
Meghan Hughes is president of the Community College of Rhode Island and Julian Alssid is vice president of the workforce partnerships division at the college.
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