The recent launch of a unique mobile classroom is expected to accelerate the state’s two-year-old Manufacturing Training Initiative, which trains and certifies the unemployed for new careers with New Jersey manufacturers.
Calling it the future of manufacturing training in New Jersey, county college officials and state Labor Commissioner Harold Wirths unveiled the first of two mobile manufacturing training classrooms in a ribbon cutting this spring at Mercer County Community College.
Sivaraman Anbarasan, executive director of the NJ Community College Consortium, said the mobile classroom, also known as “the trailer,” is designed to train the unemployed in CNC metal fabrication and mechatronics, two advanced-manufacturing skill sets in high demand.
The Consortium coordinates the NJ Manufacturing Training Initiative, which brings the training resources of the state’s 19 community colleges to local manufacturers. The founding partners of the initiative are the Consortium, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s (NJBIA) Manufacturing Network, and the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
A chronic shortage of skilled production workers has long hampered the ability of manufacturers in New Jersey and the nation to keep their production lines humming. The initiative matches manufacturing employers with newly trained and certified entry-level workers who were previously unemployed for six or more months. Of those who graduated from the program in its first two years, 80 percent have found jobs with local manufacturers.
“The trailers are a great way to provide low-cost, easily accessible training for individuals so they have the skills they need to find a well-paying job in manufacturing,” said NJBIA Acting President Melanie Willoughby. “They implement our vision of developing a modern manufacturing workforce without having to build expensive facilities in every community college in the state.”
The so-called “trailer” weighs over six tons fully loaded, and comes equipped with a 384-square-foot classroom with computers for 10 students and hands-on training equipment. It was purchased with a federal grant by Camden County Community College.
“Just as manufacturing as an industry has evolved, so has the way we train our employees,” said Clifford F. Lindholm, III, chairman of the NJBIA Manufacturing Network and President and CEO of Falstrom Company in Passaic County. “The mobile classrooms represent an innovative way to keep our workforce competitive in a global economy.”