Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) offers programs in academic and vocational-technical areas to full and part-time students, recent high school graduates, and adult learners. With more than 16,000 students, CCRI is the only community college in Rhode Island. The school grants its students a variety of one-year certificates and two-year A.A. and A.S. degrees.
In conjunction with another MATE Center partner, the University of Rhode Island (URI), CCRI hopes to soon begin offering Rhode Island students a new A.S. degree program—Marine Technology / Instrumentation and Electronics option. The new degree program will help the Ocean State’s marine-related employers fill jobs with CCRI graduates that have a solid background in the skills needed to work in marine-related electronics and technology.
Wanted: Marine Technology Skills
In discussions between CCRI and URI faculty, it became clear that the state had an abundance of marine biology graduates, explains Dr. Pranab Banerjee, chairman of CCRI’s physics department, which houses the oceanography, geology, and astronomy programs and is participating in the new marine technology program. “URI has one of the top programs in marine biology and oceanography, so there are plenty of students entering the job market in that field,” he says. “But we’re lacking people with electronic and technical skills to support these scientists in their research.”
"The new program will draw from existing CCRI classes in oceanography, electronics, technology, and chemistry; at URI, students will take classes in marine environment, small boat handling, ocean instruments and robotics, ocean measurements, and coastal measurements and applications, such as GIS"
Because both institutions are operated by the state, they already have a joint admissions agreement in place that allows students who attend CCRI to take and receive credit for classes at URI, says Dr. Banerjee. The new program will draw from existing CCRI classes in oceanography, electronics, technology, and chemistry; at URI, students will take classes in marine environment, small boat handling, ocean instruments and robotics, ocean measurements, and coastal measurements and applications, such as GIS. “One of the appealing things about the new program is that CCRI and URI already have these classes in place,” Dr. Banerjee says. “We don’t have to start a completely new program with new faculty, new money, and new curriculum. We can leverage classes, faculty, and relationships that are already in place.”
The two-year program will require a total of 76 credits, including 30 liberal arts credits. And once they have an A.S. in marine technology from CCRI in hand, students will be able to transfer to URI’s ocean engineering program if they want to further their education. “Many graduates of the new program will immediately enter into the job market,” says Dr. Banerjee. “But many will want to continue to URI where they can earn a B.S. in ocean engineering.”
CCRI is in the process of recruiting a three-member advisory panel for the marine technology program. Once the advisory panel is finalized, the school will submit the program to the state for approval. Dr. Banerjee hopes that it will be approved and ready for students by next fall. “I expect the program to be very popular,” he says. “I am optimistic that we will enroll between twenty and thirty students in the program each semester.”
Once the program is up and running, Dr. Banerjee expects the MATE Center to play an important role in helping students attain summer internships and post-graduation job opportunities. “We found the MATE Center as we were doing the research to prepare for putting the program together,” he explains. “We hope they can help our students get hands-on experience.”
"They call Rhode Island the Ocean State for a good reason"
Employment Opportunities in the Ocean State
Rhode Island is home to multiple marine-related industries, including boatbuilding and repair, shipbuilding, fishing, aquaculture, marine electronics, and marine trades. In addition to URI’s oceanography school and marine programs, Brown University, Roger Williams University, and the Naval Underwater Warfare Center (NUWC) contribute to the wealth of marine and environmental research and development taking place in the state. “They call Rhode Island the Ocean State for a good reason,” says Dr. Banerjee. “CCRI is helping create a bigger pool of employees with technical and electronic skills for the marine industries.”
Dr. Banerjee hopes that current employers such as Raytheon, a defense contractor whose Rhode Island facility produces naval defense systems, NUWC, and URI will hire new graduates of CCRI’s marine technology program. Other job opportunities exist in the state’s emerging marine sensing, imaging, and forecasting industry, and in homeland security and pollution detection and control. “The marine industry is here to stay,” says Dr. Banerjee. “And CCRI is doing its part to prepare the Rhode Island workforce to meet its needs.”
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