‘Jobs NJ’ initiative equips workers with skills for careers of the 21st century

 


An initiative launched this year to better align the curriculums of secondary schools and colleges with the needs of New Jersey employers has been made even more crucial by the current disruption of the state’s economy, according to Darryl Isherwood, a spokesman for Gov. Phil Murphy. 

Murphy announced the “Jobs NJ” program in January on the East Brunswick Campus of Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools after visiting a classroom where high school students were studying pre-engineering and advanced manufacturing, including robotics and computer-aided design and fabrication. 

The goal is to coordinate the efforts of several state agencies to make sure New Jerseyans entering the workforce are equipped to compete for high-paying, in-demand jobs. 

“For New Jersey to succeed in the 21st-century economy, we must close the gap between the needs of employers and the skills of prospective employees,” Murphy said at the time. 

Jobs NJ brings together the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Department of Education, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, and the state Economic Development Authority to make sure students are getting the training to fill the talent pool demanded by business and industry, and to give them the best chance at successful careers. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a blow to New Jersey’s economy, including our job market,” Isherwood said. “Our current situation makes it more important than ever that we create good, high-paying jobs in our state. 

“We are still fully committed to the Jobs NJ initiative, and work will continue as we emerge from the shutdown,” he added. 

The ‘Jobs NJ’ initiative aims to connect education and training programs to industry needs and increase educational opportunities for minorities, among others. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said the best outcomes for workers occur when partnerships are forged with employers for work-based learning programs. 

According to the Department of Education, more high schools are offering pre-apprenticeship and internship programs that give students hands-on experience before they formally enter the workforce. Many of the programs, including some offered by craft unions, provide work-related certifications or college credits to students while still in high school. 

Murphy outlined three strategies to achieve the goals of Jobs NJ: 

  • Increase educational opportunities for minorities and throughout all regions of the state. 
  • Connect educational and training programs to industry needs and prepare adults for high-quality and lifelong careers. 
  • Make sure information about cutting-edge job opportunities is available to educators and decision-makers. 

Murphy set a five-year timeline to increase the number of minority workers with post-secondary credentials by 250,000; increase the number of graduates in high-demand industries by 10%; close the racial and gender wage gaps by employing 42,000 more women and minorities and increasing average wages by $15,000 to $23,000, and raise the number of workers with postsecondary credentials to at least 45% in all 21 counties. 

Among the new programs are NJ Talent Solutions, which seeks to bring together government agencies to help businesses solve talent challenges, and the New Jersey Career Network, which will use a digital coaching and support platform for job seekers. 

Speech-language pathology is one of six health care fields predicted to be in-demand by the U.S. Department of Labor. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, future job demands will be highest in the sustainable energy sector, such as solar panel installers and wind turbine technicians. Also, in-home health, personal care, and physical therapy aides; physician assistants; information security analysts; statisticians; nurse practitioners; and speech-language pathologists. Six of the 10 are in health care fields. 

The largest employment sector in New Jersey also is in health care, with retail jobs close behind. Then come transportation, distribution and logistics, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, finance and insurance, technology, construction and utilities, and life sciences.