Report to Members

Focus NJ to Turbocharge Economic and Workforce Research

Report to Members

Moving from now to next requires more than just innovative thinking. You need to understand what the research and data is telling you first, before the door to insightful solutions opens.

For the past five years, NJBIA has undertaken a number of research projects analyzing public policies, industry trends, and economic indicators impacting New Jersey’s competitiveness, workforce and overall affordability. Some of our preliminary work has documented the troubling outmigration trend of young New Jerseyans and explored strategies for retaining and attracting the state’s future workforce.

Michele Siekerka

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO, New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA)

Now we’re ready to turbocharge these efforts with the launch of a new independent, nonprofit research entity: Focus NJ: The Center for Economic Research and Workforce Solutions. It will conduct timely research, provide economic updates, and analyze key workforce trends to identify policy and workforce solutions. Paid fellowships for graduate research students also will be available from the foundation.

Among Focus NJ’s short-term priorities will be work on developing a one-stop online statewide portal that will act as a central clearinghouse to match businesses, academia and students with scores of career preparedness opportunities already available, but currently flying under the radar of many applicants.

Led by Executive Director Nicole Sandelier, Focus NJ recently received a research grant from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) to support the creation of an online Experiential Learning Portal to better connect academia, businesses and students to apprenticeships, job training, and research and development opportunities. Similar platforms already exist in other states. Focus NJ’s goal is to launch its online portal in New Jersey by 2021.

The portal was a key recommendation of NJBIA’s Postsecondary Education Task Force, which included leaders from business, academia, nonprofits and state government, who produced the award-winning report, “Education Equation: Strategies for Retaining and Attracting New Jersey’s Future Workforce.”

The online portal will feature “toolkits” to help students and employers develop experiential learning relationships, sections for students to upload resumes and businesses to post available opportunities, career planning information for guidance counselors and students’ parents, and an information section for educators to help them incorporate experiential learning concepts into their curriculum. NJBIA will give a presentation in Salt Lake City this month about Focus NJ and its planned Experiential Learning Portal at the ASAE’s “Great Ideas Conference” spotlighting innovation.

Focus NJ is also currently conducting research into the industry trends, challenges and opportunities that will impact jobs in the decades ahead. Ensuring that New Jersey’s leaders in business, academia and government all have the most current industry data and projections will foster more effective collaboration on career pathways and the public-private partnerships needed for the future of work.

Focus NJ’s board of trustees includes some of New Jersey’s leading public policy thought leaders: Dale Caldwell, Ed.D., executive director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Rothman Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship; Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., assistant professor at Monmouth University; Bernard Corrigan, president of IBEW Local 102; and Catherine Milone, president of Junior Achievement of New Jersey; as well as NJBIA’s Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas and myself.

Find out more about Focus NJ’s Center for Economic Research and Workforce Solutions at

To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.

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