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The proposed project will address key gaps in Rhode Island's agricultural and food workforce development systems and address six of the seven USDA Strategic Goals for FY 2018-2022. The project will develop an "industry ready" workforce that supports agricultural and food systems businesses so they can grow, while preparing students and workers for meaningful careers with living wages.Lead applicant, the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Institute, the non-profit 501(c)(3) arm of the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association, and co-lead project director Rhode Island Food Policy Council ("The Partnership") are collaborating with college, university, state agencies, and organizations - in an innovative public/private partnership - to define, develop, and implement curriculum for a two-year associate degree focused on agriculture and food systems at the Community College of Rhode Island. The goal of this alliance is to provide students with cross-disciplinary educational and experiential learning opportunities grounded in science and technology with curriculum that has been developed based on industry input and demand for a workforce trained for the 21st century. collaboratingThis 2-year degree will link to existing higher educational programs at the University of Rhode Island and also strengthen pipeline connectivity to the RI Nursery and Landscape Association's award-winning and nationally recognized Registered Apprenticeship Program, which provides job-based training where participants can earn while they learn. Rhode Island's small scale makes it a perfect laboratory for trialing new strategies and improving existing strategies, which call for creative and collaborative solutions that have the potential for adoption by other institutions and organizations.The goal of this collaboration is to address these workforce needs through the design of multi-disciplinary pathways, programs and curriculum based on current and projected future industry demand. This will create new career opportunities for students as well as educate and train leaders for our industries. Our anticipated project audience will be drawn not only from graduating high school students but also from under-served populations, e.g., English language learners, veterans, individuals with developmental disabilities, formerly incarcerated individuals, and more. We have partnered with organizations representing these communities through the Partnerships' existing workforce training programs, and we value their expertise in working in urban, suburban, and rural settings and building clear lines of communication and programs that structurally demand strong partnerships. We also receive coaching and support from experts in our state in Registered Apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship training, social services, and job placement, and we know these partners will add value to the work proposed herein.Our project target objectives are to: (1) Establish a core team to clearly define goals, procedures, and an achievable timeline for designing and implementing new curriculum and a new, innovative, multi-disciplinary 2-year associate degree; (2) design the program and develop curriculum; (3) get feedback from employers; (4) bring curriculum before educational entities for approval; (5) support recruitment of students and implement degree program; (6) ensure 2-year degree recipients have completed requirements to matriculate into one of the recognized Joint Admission Agreement (JAA) transition plans at the University of Rhode Island, the state's land-grant university; (7) facilitate open pathways for students to participate in RINLI/RINLA's Registered Apprenticeship program; (8) evaluate program for scalability and adoption by other institutions and organizations.

Brawley, S.
Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Institute
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