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10 To Watch: Damian Ewens and Jen Silbert

The Project Director and Senior Project Manager at Opportunity@Work are connecting Rhode Islanders with jobs in the tech sector.

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Names: Damian Ewens and Jen Silbert
Occupations: Project Director & Senior Project Manager, Opportunity@Work
Age: 40 & 43
His Background: Founded Achievery, one of the first digital credentialing companies; taught for four years at Big Picture Learning schools
Her Background: Organizational development consultant for PriceWaterhouseCoopers and IBM; co-founded Spartina Consulting and the education initiative Learning401

Rhode Islanders need new, well-paying jobs; tech companies need talented workers to fill the job openings they already have. Damian Ewens and Jen Silbert are trying to connect those needs with TechHireRI, an initiative that aims to place 2,000 Rhode Islanders into tech jobs by 2020. In their first year, they built partnerships with Governor Raimondo, CommerceRI, and the Department of Labor and Training, and helped GE Digital recruit a third of their first hires in Providence. “Talent is a big reason why companies stay in Rhode Island or move elsewhere,” explains Ewens. “The development of a talent pipeline that can quickly fill jobs today and tomorrow is already demonstrating success. The state was able to attract GE Digital and one of their top reasons was the talent.” Plans for 2017 include the growth of their employer and job seeker online platforms, providing scholarships for coding courses, and supporting the development of new computer science minors at more colleges and universities, including URI. “Unfilled tech jobs is one of the biggest challenges our companies face,” says Silbert. “Accessing these high paying jobs, and the training to get the job, is also one of the biggest economic opportunities available to Rhode Islanders today.”