Workforce Development: A Path to Solving the Labor Crunch

Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed a $3 million funding bill for a basic skills training program by the New Jersey Community College Consortium. I sponsored this legislation because it will allow for the expansion of workforce development that New Jersey needs.

When we review the workforce challenge, two issues are at stake. One is the recruitment issue, that is, will we have enough people to fill the worker shortage? And, the other problem is whether we will attract and train the skilled workers necessary to fill those jobs.

Our workforce problems are a New Jersey-wide challenge, and that’s why the consortium is so essential. It will unite New Jersey’s 18 community colleges to align our most crucial industry skills and credentials. Moreover, it will form partnerships with businesses, labor unions, county vocational-technical high schools, four-year colleges and universities, workforce development organizations, and community-based groups to promote skills training and a pathway to future careers.

When I review the reasons for the consortium, one of its most important functions is that it adds order, a united front if you will, of successfully training students to meet business needs both now and in the future. Of course, individually, each organization in the consortium has valid, praise-worthy goals. But bringing them together adds more significant impact, options, and more considerable brain trust to tackle inevitable issues of direction and emphasis.

Think of this effort as a high-end educational funnel that will attract our best and brightest who seek vocational and technical training while removing administrative barriers that might impede their path.

In recent times, we constantly hear employers lamenting over the lack of workers. However, just as unfortunate is the shortage of trained and highly skilled workers. We believe that this initiative will offer opportunities in areas that businesses need. They include:

Health Services. From hospitals to long-term care centers, we need more skilled personnel, especially in the continued throes of the coronavirus pandemic. Health services make up the largest industry in New Jersey.

Global Manufacturing. The eastern corridor has a reputation for manufacturing prowess, and now we can add logistics, distribution and transportation to the mix. However, we still need the talent to fulfill the demand.

Innovation and Technology. Whether hardware or software, this demanding and high-paying field (with an annual wage of $129,000-plus in 2018) offers a challenging and financially secure future.

Energy. While always important, with climate change and a new emphasis on renewable energy, the future possibilities in this expanding sector are boundless.

Adding additional, trained personnel to these areas bodes well for the individual, gives companies a boost that it sorely needs from a personnel perspective, and allows New Jersey business a competitive edge with other states and even internationally.

That’s my take, what’s yours?