NJ Labor Department Chief of Staff Gary Hasenbalg was not speechless — but he was amazed.
“We have a 100 percent success rate here today,” Hasenbalg told 18 recent graduates of a Certified Production Technician (CPT) class at Rowan College of Gloucester County. “What I’ve never witnessed before is a place where every graduate will walk through those doors knowing they are going to work the next day.”
Seventeen of those graduates filled open positions at Kellogg’s Frozen Foods plant in Blue Anchor, NJ, which has recently expanded. It’s one of only a few Kellogg’s plants that make the company’s famed Eggo frozen waffles, which control about three-quarters of the nation’s frozen waffle market.
The graduation also marked the latest success of New Jersey’s Manufacturing Training Initiative, which is managed by the NJ Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development, with training provided by its 19 community college members.
The Manufacturing Initiative initially was funded by the NJ Department of Labor & Workforce Development. Most of the funding now comes from a federal Ready to Work grant obtained by the Consortium. Ready to Work NJ seeks to train and match the long-term unemployed with companies who need their skills.
Clearly, Kellogg’s Blue Anchor plant needed the skills of the 17 Rowan graduates. In fact, the company is already anxious to hire more individuals through the Consortium’s training programs.
“They love it! So much so in fact that they want to run another CPT class soon, and they also want to do a PLC class,” said Ready to Work NJ coordinator Daniel Lim, who worked with Kellogg’s on the training project.
PLC stands for Programmable Logic Controllers, a system that uses different types of logic and computer programming to control machinery and production processes. In short, PLC training is all about preparing individuals to work with highly automated machinery and systems. Certified Production Technicians are trained and certified for a career in today’s advanced manufacturing plants, with a pathway to pursue a college degree.
“This is why the Consortium’s training programs are so important,” said Consortium CEO Sivaraman Anbarasan. “Through these programs, New Jersey manufacturers and the county colleges are working together to close the manufacturing skills gap in this state.”
To date, the Consortium’s CPT program has trained 90 individuals, more than 84 percent of whom have found jobs with local employers. The Consortium’s CNC metal-fabrication program has trained more than 201 individuals with an 87 percent placement rate.
“We could not ask for a better success story,” said state Labor Commissioner Harold Wirths. “The program continues to yield great results.”
This story was also published in the April 2016 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.