One of the great frustrations of business owners today is their inability to find the people with the right skills and experience to fill open jobs, especially jobs of a technical nature.
This “skills gap,” especially in manufacturing, has become a chasm of Grand Canyon proportions.
One reason: the vast majority of students today are herded into four-year colleges to become doctors, lawyers, accountants or artists. Few students are encouraged to pursue the kind of technical skills that might land them a job in a modern factory.
Consequently, in the nation’s manufacturing sector alone, hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs with a bright future go unfilled every year.
President Obama has exhorted the nation to move in a new direction, “to take a job-driven approach to training,” so that the chronically unemployed or impoverished can get the training they need to take these jobs and support their families.
Fortunately, through the leadership of the NJ Community College Consortium for Economic and Workforce Development, and the 19 county colleges it represents, New Jersey is already leading the way.
Since 2007, more than 100,000 employees or prospective employees have been trained in the skills sets required by over 4,500 private-sector employers. This training has been accomplished primarily through the Consortium’s Employability Skills (formerly Basic Skills) and Manufacturing training programs.
“It’s our mission to help employers close the skills gap,” says Consortium CEO Sivaraman Anbarasan. “We work with companies to define the employee skill sets needed, and then our talented county college instructors provide tuition-free training.”
Anbarasan gives much credit for the program’s success to the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which has funded the Employability Skills Workforce Training program since its 2007 inception, and to the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, which is a founding partner of the Employability and Manufacturing programs.
In today’s world of rapidly advancing technology and instant communications, few employers have the staff or resources to give needed training to existing employees or new employees, Anbarasan says. This makes the Consortium’s training programs essential.
Through the Manufacturing Training programs, the chronically unemployed have been able to find work as Certified Production Technicians and CNC-machine operators in the fabricated metal business, one of New Jersey’s largest manufacturing subsectors.
The Consortium’s newest program, Ready to Work New Jersey, provides training and job- development services, as well as on-the-job training, for the long-term unemployed and underemployed in New Jersey and matches them with employers who need their skills. The program gives preference to unemployed military veterans.
This story was originally published in the September 2015 issue of New Jersey Business, the magazine of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. The author is Christopher Biddle, President of Biddle Communications & Public Relations.