Creating a Path Toward Careers in Rhode Island’s Land and Sea-Based Industries
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6 October 2022

Almost three years of work came to fruition this season with the September 2022 launch of the new interdisciplinary Associate degree in ‘Environment, Sustainability, and Management’ at the Community College of RI (CCRI), designed to forge a path toward careers in the state’s land and sea-based industries. Registration in the new program is strong and rapidly rising.

The program grew out of an innovative collaboration between two longtime KK&P clients: the Rhode Island Nursery & Landscape Association (RINLA), the state’s leading trade association and creator of workforce programming for land-based industries, and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC), a nonprofit network organization working to promote a vibrant and sustainable food system. KK&P Senior Consultant Shayna Cohen provided program strategy, project management, research and facilitation support over the entire course of the program design, development, and launch.

Read More: Developing Stronger Pathways to Food and Agriculture Careers in Rhode Island: Creating a Path Toward Careers in Rhode Island’s Land and Sea-Based Industries

Rhode Island’s flourishing land and sea businesses compose a sector quickly rising to the top of the list of the state’s most vital economic drivers. They provide benefits and opportunities in direct ways, such as jobs in agriculture, food processing, landscape management, and aquaculture, and indirectly through creating, cultivating, and maintaining places and open spaces that sustain the state’s tourism industry. Yet KK&P’s research revealed the extent to which businesses across the food and land-based industries struggled to build a pipeline of engaged, trained, and educated people into these diverse sectors, from agriculture to arboriculture, commercial fisheries to conservation management, and landscape maintenance to forestry.  

While the program would resonate in many places around the country, it was custom designed to respond to the Rhode Island context: the character of the state’s people, its land and sea-based industries that have grown around 400 miles of coastline, and its ecosystem of education and training assets and opportunities.

With funding from the Agriculture Workforce Development Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, KK&P facilitated a multi-year collaborative design process. We brought industry leaders and their organizational advocates (including RINLA and RIFPC) together with administrative leaders, faculty, student advisors, coordinators of experiential education and university transfer resources, and others from CCRI and the University of RI.

The result is a future-facing program that weaves science and business with work-based learning opportunities and course content that focuses on environmental science and sustainability; agriculture, food, and ecological systems; business ethics and entrepreneurial thinking; and climate change impacts on ecologies and economies. In addition to being a meaningful credential in its own right, the Associate degree program transfers seamlessly to a range of Bachelor’s programs at the state’s land grant university.

What makes this program unique is what we at KK&P believe will make it successful in the long run. It’s a creative program that responds to on-the-ground economic and ecological realities, with strong commitment and leadership from the community college’s administrative leaders, faculty, and advisors. But the design process yielded another asset that will contribute to program success: a solid collaborative network of industry leaders, nonprofit partners, and allied higher education institutions deeply committed to the success of the program and its students.

Photo courtesy of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council