Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 10-31-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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14 CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OCTOBER-31-NOVEMBER 6, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE LINCOLN – Having worked at the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce for the last two decades, Senior Vice President Paul Ouellette is no stranger to change. As the economy, technology, work and social trends shift, so too does the Chamber. "When I first came on, the Chamber was the place you went for directions, to learn what restaurants were good or where to stay. People didn't have cellphones. Now, when people Google everything for information, we have to remain relevant," he says. "You have to evolve with the times. If you don't, you're going to go away. The work environment is changing. We recognize that, and we have to keep up with those changes to pro- vide our members with the tools they need," he said. Originally a salesman, Ouellette now serves as the Chamber's senior vice president, responsible for the chamber's workforce development, education and community develop- ment initiatives. The workforce development piece of Ouellette's job means connecting businesses with programs they might not know about to maximize their success. One of those programs pays for 50 percent of job training for eli- gible companies. Another offers salary reimbursements for companies training employees. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of pro- grams out there that people don't know about. You don't see these things on a bill- board driving down Route 146," Ouellette said. That's where he and the Chamber come in. Education is an equally important piece of the puzzle, including both educating businesses on best practices and fostering connections between businesses and local schools, said Ouellette. These connections are vital for shaping the future of the work- force. "We recognize that education and the workforce go hand-in-hand," he said. "It doesn't make sense for educa- tors to teach irrelevant content. It's novel to have businesses give input into what schools are teaching." Serving as vice chairman of the board of trustees of Davies Career and Technical High School, Ouellette said members hear "constantly" about the need for students to have technical training and the discrepancy between what's being taught and what employ- ers need. "We have an aging workforce. Young people need to know that there are good industry jobs where they can make a good salary," he said. On the business side, Ouellette orga- nizes educational seminars and events for Chamber members that include networking nights, "Eggs and Issues" breakfasts and more. The Chamber offers seminars on everything from public speaking to Microsoft programs, to active shooter seminars, the latter of which Ouellette said is "not a topic people want to talk about, but a necessary topic to cover if somewhere were ever to come into your place of business with a weap- on." The Chamber places a strong emphasis on advocating for small businesses at the Statehouse. Ouellette said the chamber "always has and always will" be an advocate for the business community. No mat- ter what changes over the years, that mission remains paramount. The most recent change to the Chamber, of course, was the hiring of Liz Catucci as president and CEO to replace John Gregory. Ouellette said the core values will remain the same. "Liz and the board understand the need to be involved in workforce development and education, continu- ing the work we do for our members and making sure they have the tools they need to be successful," he said. "We're sad to see John Gregory go, we all love him … we finish each other's sentences … but we're excited about Liz coming on board," he said. "She's young, energetic, and will be bringing some different ideas to the table. We're willing to try anything." Ouellette emphasizes importance of workforce training By NICOLE DOTZENROD Valley Breeze Staff Writer nicole@valleybreeze.com OUELLETTE Holiday Open House Dec. 5 LINCOLN – The annual Holiday Open House, sponsored by the Northern R.I. Chamber of Commerce and held for its members, will be on Thursday, Dec. 5, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Twin River Event Center, 100 Twin River Road. This festive celebration is one of the Chamber's signature evenings. Last year, more than 300 were on hand and it will sell out again this year. Tickets are only $20. Members can visit www. nrichamber.com to reg- ister. Sponsored by the Chamber's Board of Directors and Twin River Casino, guests enjoy a memorable evening of networking, food and signature drinks. The event features a silent auction that includes something for everyone. Additionally, due to the generosity of Twin River and the Chamber's Board of Directors, a portion of the registration fee will be donated to the R.I. Community Food Bank. Good Luck John on your retirement! Congratulations Liz with your new role with The Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce! 177 Old River Road, Lincoln, RI 02865 401-333-1800 www.kirkbraeproperties.com Best Wishes On Your Retirement! APARTMENTS

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