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NJ Department of Labor Drives 21st Century Workforce Programs

Recent data released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics show that New Jersey businesses have done much to recover since the Great Recession. In 2015, private-sector employers added 83,600 jobs, representing the best year for private-sector employment growth since 1999. Our unemployment rate has improved dramatically, with New Jersey ranking best in the nation for over-the-year change in the unemployment rate for 2015. We have now regained all of the private-sector jobs lost during the recession.

The New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development’s role in the recovery has been to develop programs that help businesses stay competitive in a global marketplace. In order to maintain New Jersey’s renowned, highly-skilled workforce, we must work with stakeholders in industry, education and the community to ensure that the skills of the workforce are aligned with the needs of employers.

In 2011, we created Talent Networks to connect jobseekers, employers, educational institutions and workforce programs and to gather intelligence on the workforce needs of the state’s key industries. Right now, our labor market analysts are working with employers to compile a list of 170 in-demand credentials and degrees that will be the focus of the occupational training investments of the state’s workforce programs. Further, our Skills Partnership customized training grants help employers improve the skills of their workers.

Currently, the Talent Networks are focused on determining workforce development programs that address the needs of industries projected to employ the most New Jerseyans in the coming years, including: advanced manufacturing; life sciences; healthcare; financial services; technology; transportation, logistics and distribution; and retail, hospitality and tourism. Our department has allocated $5 million to fund the best programs created under this initiative. Further, we recently awarded $6 million through our Skills Partnership training grants to help 95 businesses upgrade the skills of more than 23,000 workers. For fiscal year 2017, New Jersey has proposed a policy by which a minimum of 50 percent of occupational training investments will be focused on programs that result in an industry‐valued credential. Going forward, this percentage would increase until fiscal year 2021, when up to 80 percent of occupational training investments will be focused on programs that provide an industry‐valued credential.

Our department is also spearheading the development of three Talent Development Centers at institutions of higher education focused on key industry sectors: advanced manufacturing at Camden County College; healthcare at Rutgers University; and transportation, logistics and distribution at Union County College. Each school will serve as a “center for excellence” in the state and provide training to incumbent workers and dislocated workers with state funds from the Workforce Development Partnership Program. These centers will also serve as anchors for expanded high‐quality employer‐driven partnerships and will further build the capacity of the state’s higher education institutions to provide education and training aligned with the needs of the state’s key industries. We are also expanding our footprint to reach jobseekers through a new partnership with local libraries in order to deliver adult basic education and literacy services throughout the state, extending the reach of our One-Stop Career Centers.

To ensure that our economy continues to grow, we must continue to meet business demands for skilled workers. Training programs developed from the research of our Talent Networks and training investments made through our Skills Partnership grants help workers and employers maintain a competitive edge in a global economy. Incumbent and dislocated worker training provided through our Talent Development Centers, as well as the expansion of adult basic education and literacy services, will further help this cause. Workers thrive in their careers as they obtain in-demand skills, and businesses grow as they meet the demands of their respective industries. Through our efforts, we are confident that New Jersey’s workforce will continue to be a driving force in the state’s economy.

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