The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development is ramping up efforts to expand a unique grant program designed to bolster career opportunities for Garden State residents.

The Growing Apprenticeship in Non Traditional Sectors, or GAINS, program supports the idea that apprenticeship is a viable career pathway and can help  companies seeking qualified workers.

Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro Angelo said apprenticeship programs already exist in traditional industries like construction but the state is trying to "trying to entice and incentivize other businesses to come together and work collaboratively on training their workforce for the future.”

GAINS participants are apprenticing in a variety of business operations, including golf course management, dementia care, water treatment, diesel mechanics and there’s a program at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.

Asaro Angelo said these kinds of programs are valuable for all types of companies that offer specific types of training.

“Apprentices make way more than folks who don’t go through apprenticeships," he said. "They have a full time career, they have skills, they have credentials of value that will serve them for the rest of their lives, which means they won’t be coming back through our system for other training.”

He explained apprenticeship programs are put together by the employer partners to make sure it’s clear what kinds of skill sets they’re looking for.

He said there has been an increasing emphasis put on developing apprenticeship programs in New Jersey because “we know it works."

Asaro Angelo pointed out in traditional apprenticeship programs, about 40% of participants are women, African Americans and Hispanics, but in the GAINS training pipeline that figure is up to about 80%.

To move this expansion forward, the Department of Labor is helping “fund some of the up-front costs of starting a program." In fiscal year 2019, $5.8 million in GAINS grants were awarded. In fiscal year 2020, another $3 million will go to an additional dozen organizations that will serve more than 1,300 apprentices and 75 employers.

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