Windows of Opportunity: Reed & Whitehouse Get Clear View of Providence Preservation Society’s Specialized Workforce Development Program
PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island is home to some of the oldest building stock in the country, including 45 National Historic Landmarks and thousands of other buildings in service as schools, businesses, homes, and houses of worship. In Providence alone, almost 90 percent of the buildings are older than 50 years, each requiring specialized care to remain in working order. Historic window restoration, one of several historic trades specific to older buildings, is key to keeping the state’s architectural character in a state of good repair, energy efficient, and well-maintained for future generations.
Starting as a small neighborhood group in 1956 and flourishing into a multifaceted citywide preservation and planning organization, the Providence Preservation Society (PPS) has been a stalwart advocate for neighborhood preservation and reinvestment into local communities. In an effort to develop a skilled workforce that can support preservation and rehabilitation projects for historic structures in Providence and beyond, PPS created the Window & Workforce Training program (WWTP) to offer hands-on work experience to trainees who are unemployed or under-employed and teaches them in-demand skills working with wood windows and related materials.
Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse visited PPS to meet with trainees and deliver a $140,000 federal earmark they secured to support and enhance the organization’s specialized training program in the trades.
“Windows are so important to the character of a structure. Original windows made of old-growth lumber were built to last and can offer excellent energy-efficiency if they are properly maintained. The Providence Preservation Society identified a need to develop a skilled workforce that can contribute to the preservation of some of Providence’s most cherished historic buildings. I am grateful for their Window & Workforce Training program as it equips folks with in-demand job skills while also building basic business and entrepreneurship skills,” said Senator Reed. “The program being offered by PPS is helping trainees secure good-paying jobs contributing to the preservation of our state’s historic landscape."
“The Providence Preservation Society’s specialized workforce training program is helping maintain our capital city’s historic character and supporting Rhode Islanders who are looking to learn in-demand skills and chart a new career path. The federal funds Senator Reed and I secured will allow the program to continue to flourish,” said Senator Whitehouse.
“We began the program during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a mindset that trainees should be paid for their time while they learn these in-demand skills, since many were unemployed or working multiple jobs already,” said PPS Executive Director, Brent Runyon. “This kind of socially equitable program is only possible with community support, including this federal grant that Senators Reed and Whitehouse helped us secure.”
During their tour of the PPS workshop, the Senators spoke with trainees about their experience so far in WWTP and how the blended curriculum offered prepares graduates to pursue work as independent contractors or as employees of an established shop. Over two cycles of the training program, PPS has graduated 17 people and placed them into jobs. A third WWTP cycle is scheduled to be completed this week.
Along with PPS, the program is facilitated by Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and Heritage Restoration, Inc.