The New Jersey Business and Industry Association and New Jersey’s community colleges have launched an initiative designed to help the state’s educational system to build an innovative workforce.

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the NJBIA, said the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities program will “bring together and align New Jersey’s employers with our academic institutions and our students in order to create and build the skills needed for now and for the future in New Jersey.”

Getting the inside scoop

She said the program will gather input from employers, industry associations, labor unions and workforce development partners to be able to assist educational institutions in designing structured pathways for students to find in-demand jobs and career opportunities.

She noted we’ve been seeing a skill-gap crisis in New Jersey for many years and clearly “we absolutely need to educate our students today and what the jobs are that are out there for them today and tomorrow.”

Aaron Fichtner, the president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, said the economy and the needs of employers are changing rapidly and it’s important “to be working with NJBIA and the business community to better understand the needs of the economy and make sure that our community colleges and their partners are preparing people for the jobs of the future.”

What's the focus

The initiative is focused on four industries that are the foundation of the state’s economy: health services; technology and innovation; infrastructure and energy; and manufacturing and supply chain management.

Supporting those four collaboratives will be 10 Centers of Workforce Innovation, which will include education and training partners. All of New Jersey’s 18 community college partners, as well as high schools, four-year colleges and universities, and community-based training providers will be involved, with the goals of aligning and improving existing curricula, prioritizing industry-valued credentials and developing transfer agreements.

Siekerka said this initiative will be a game-changer for the Garden State.

“The opportunity to actually have the resources at hand right now to continue to bridge the skill gap by bringing together New Jersey employers with our educators is significant,” she said.

Fichtner said as the program moves forward “this will mean better information, better guidance for high school students and adults who are trying to make good decisions about their careers.”

He stressed the initiative will ensure they are getting “the skills and education that will help them get a career, this will put community colleges at the cutting edge.”

Fichtner added the world is rapidly evolving and “the skills that people will need to have to be successful are going to be different, and we need to make sure that we’re working with the business community to keep pace with those many changes.”

A New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunity Statewide Convening will be held on Jan. 19, at Middlesex College in Edison, with the opportunity for interested parties to join virtually or in-person.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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