In my experience, it is not uncommon for employers to voice their concerns about how unprepared today’s high school and college graduates seem. If you are like most of our members, you are dissatisfied with the quality of the employees you need to fill your available positions. After regularly hearing about these problems from many of the nearly 21,000 companies we represent, NJBIA decided to find solutions.
When it comes to teaching young people what will be expected of them in the working world, it is clear that employers must become more involved in what students learn. Leading the way, NJBIA has formed a number of partnerships that will allow businesses to teach classes and/or help develop the curricula that educators will use. These partnerships allow employers to open up their workplace to provide hands-on experience for students.
One of our most successful collaborations has been with Junior Achievement of New Jersey (JA-NJ), which is at the forefront of providing schools the benefit of employers’ knowledge and experience. Since 1953, JA-NJ has organized programs in which employers provide classroom instruction and offer hands-on entrepreneurial projects and workplace experiences such as job shadowing.
In May, NJBIA hosted one of these programs—JA Career Success. Our staff worked with the students on developing job skills, including problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, as well as the ability to communicate, negotiate and lead. The program emphasized the importance of personal appearance, professional demeanor, punctuality and written and oral communication. About 15 central New Jersey students – ages 11 to 16 – participated.
We have also partnered with the state’s Vocational Technical Schools. Our Employer Coalition for Technical Education matches employers with school districts to provide students with work experience, classroom instruction from the point of view of a business owner, or help design and update curriculum to reflect industry trends.
Many businesses are already participating. Flemington Car and Truck Country, for instance, partners with Hunterdon County Polytech to provide all seniors in the auto technology program with a one-week, work-based learning experience at its dealership. The company assigns a mentor to each student, who then rotates through the sales, parts and repair departments.
At Salem County Vocational-Technical School’s Academy for Energy Applications, students learn the engineering of power generation from a curriculum developed by PSEG, with the help of Atlantic City Electric and South Jersey Gas. The program asks students to apply the principles of chemistry and physics in traditional and alternative energy.
In Bergen County, BMW provides hands-on learning experience and internship opportunities for students studying automotive design and engineering. Students can even earn A.S.E. certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
I invite all NJBIA member companies to become involved in helping prepare students today, so they can be better employees for your company in the future. Members may contact Junior Achievement at 609-419-0404, x110, or on www.janj.org. For the Coalition of Career and Technical Education, please visit www.careertechnj.org/nj-employer-coalition-for-technical-education/.
As we survey New Jersey’s economic landscape, we have determined that we can no longer just sit back and hope for the best. Since it is our members who are most impacted by the quality of the labor pool, we decided to step up to the plate to ensure they have the superior workforce that both our employers and future employees deserve.