By Kelcy Dolan
As part of a tour through the Second Congressional District, U.S. James Langevin recently made a stop in Cranston to visit Taco’s facility.
The “Rhode Trip” has Langevin making a stop in every community in the district to take part in meetings with constituents, attend public events, and tour businesses.
Langevin stopped in at Taco on Aug. 17 to discuss the company’s work. Joining him were owner and CEO John Hazen White Jr., executive vice president Robert Lee, and field application engineer Joseph Mattiello.
During their meeting, the group discussed Taco’s interest in both cybersecurity and improvements to career and technical education (CTE) throughout the country. Both are issues in which the congressman is deeply involved.
Lee said as Taco expands and its jobs become more sophisticated, training and education are going to be crucial. That can get expensive, however.
“Our challenge is finding people and programs that match where we want to be in three to five years as we keep raising the bar,” he said. “That’s why CTE is something important to us. Most people come here for a job and get a career.”
Hazen White said there is often a “stigma” surrounding the trades, but Taco tries to change the perception of manufacturing – that it is not done in the “dusty, old, and dangerous” factories of old, but rather on the cutting edge.
Taco is considering a program that brings in high school students and their families to see the drastic change manufacturing has made over the last decade to hopefully inspire students to see a future in the trades.
“College is not always the right option for everyone. The trades are a great path,” Hazen White said.
He explained that a company like Taco offers opportunities for higher education right through the company. This allows Taco to keep on more staff with less turnover.
“We offer education programs not only because it betters productivity, but it also betters lives,” he said. “My passion is people, and when you do the right thing you get the right results.”
Langevin has proposed legislation to encourage and strengthen CTE programs nationwide and support apprenticeships. He has also worked with German business leaders to study their models.
“As I mapped out my ‘Langevin Rhode Trip’ of visits to all 21 cities and towns that I represent, I had to make a stop in Cranston for an update on Taco’s exciting work,” he said. “Taco is a business success story all its own, but what continues to impress and inspire me is John Hazen White Jr.’s commitment to his employees. Taco offers exceptional education and training opportunities, and that investment is returned in the form of highly skilled, satisfied workers who take pride in their work. As co-chair of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus, I believe Taco sets the example for workforce development and employee training, and I really appreciate John and his team taking the time to show me around and discuss the challenges and opportunities facing them in the industry and in Rhode Island’s business landscape.”