New Jersey is home to 19 community colleges that were established throughout the 1960s. These colleges provide a quality education to people of all ages throughout the state. Each college offers a wide array of associate degree and certificate programs, as well as workforce training programs. These colleges are accessible and affordable, and lead to great careers for hundreds of thousands of students each year.
In 2004, all 19 community college presidents signed an agreement for a new initiative to pursue statewide workforce training programs. As a result, the community colleges became part of the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development. The goal is to help bridge the skills gap throughout New Jersey by providing workforce training in a variety of fields. Since its inception, the Workforce Consortium has provided training solutions to more than 143,000 employees at over 6,000 businesses in New Jersey.
The Workforce Consortium was designed to help the state as a whole. Through the 19 colleges, it delivers training programs designed to help employers advance the people already working for them, and train unemployed people to fill open positions. As a result, many people have experienced a seamless re-entry into the workforce. The Workforce Consortium offers training in numerous fields including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and financial services to assist people in getting jobs and following career pathways. The Basic Skills Training Program, a partnership between the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) and the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development (LWD), has been one of the most successful programs in the state and has been running for the past nine years.
In 2014, the Workforce Consortium received a $10-million federal grant, matched by a $2-million LWD grant, to launch the Ready to Work New Jersey initiative. This program specifically targets people who have been unemployed for six months or more and trains them for jobs currently available. The program also allows employers seeking employees to hire people to be trained in their companies and receive partial salary reimbursements (On the Job Training). This program does not cost anything for anyone who participates in it. The program’s services are available at all 19 community colleges in New Jersey, and to local employers. The grant has helped to employ more than 400 people in the past 18 months.
The NJBIA Basic Skills Training Program caters to the unique needs of small businesses because classes can be combined with numerous small businesses’ employees learning in the same class. This program offers training to current employees of New Jersey companies, teaching them basic skills at no tuition cost. Instructors will even come to a company location to teach the classes, or the classes can be taught at the local community college. Participants in these classes learn important lessons like proper written and verbal communication skills, customer service, management and business professional skills. All businesses in New Jersey can take part in this program, which is customizable to meet companies’ needs.
NJBIA also organized another program with the Workforce Consortium to put together a 12-week Advanced Manufacturing Training Program. The program helps its participants acquire skills and accreditation in metal fabrication using computer numerical control (CNC). This program is available at Bergen Community College, Camden County College, Middlesex County College and Raritan Valley Community College. The Workforce Consortium, through a grant awarded to Camden County College, also has the ability to deploy two trailers that have mobile classrooms to provide this on-demand training throughout the state. Since its launch in 2012, more than 125 local manufacturers have hired 90 percent of the graduates from this program. Many of the people in this program were unemployed for more than six months before they completed their training.
Kellogg’s Frozen Foods worked closely with this program. Rowan College of Gloucester County recently had 18 students complete the Certified Production Technician class. Of these 18 graduates, 17 of them are now employed within Kellogg’s Frozen Foods based out of Blue Anchor. The company is looking forward to hiring more graduates from the programs the Workforce Consortium offers.
The New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development continues to grow and assist more people in gaining employment throughout the state. Its numerous programs cater to the needs of many employers statewide. The Workforce Consortium and its member community colleges are helping businesses throughout New Jersey thrive, and have provided pathways to prosperity for workers. The Workforce Consortium will continue to expand and meet the needs of workers and employers in the state.