Nurturing a Highly Skilled Workforce

Talent networks use employer-led approach to enhance job seekers skills.

New Jersey’s educated and highly skilled workforce ranks among the top in the nation. A significant portion of our labor force – 65 percent – is college educated. The most recent annual data shows 14.4 percent of our labor force holds advanced degrees; 26.4 percent have bachelor degrees; and 24.2 percent have an associate degree and some college. While we have a skilled workforce, we recognize that there are key skill gaps where employers may encounter challenges in hiring skilled workers.

It’s imperative that we nurture and support our quality workforce through innovative partnerships, strategies and programs to build on the state’s inherent competitive advantages and address challenges facing the state’s economy.

One of the first enhancements I made as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development was shifting the paradigm of how we approach training. We moved from training people for jobs that may not be growing in the state, and keeping our fingers crossed that they get a job, to going directly to the source – employers and businesses – and asking them what kind of skills and training they need their prospective employees to have.

My department does not create jobs. However, we do provide avenues for employers to find the talent they need to keep their businesses competitive here at home, in the US and globally. We launched our talent networks initiative four years ago to help us identify and respond to those skills gaps and to keep the talent we have here in the Garden State, which will ensure present and future New Jersey workers have the skills employers want and need to prosper now and in the future.

Our labor market analysts researched and tracked economic trends to determine the industries where the job demand is and where it will be. We then used that information to develop the talent networks which center on those key New Jersey industry sectors. Currently, our seven talent networks employ more than two-thirds of New Jersey workers and pay more than two-thirds of annual wages in the state. Talent networks are funded by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and are operated by a host agency.

The seven industry-focused talent networks and host agencies are: healthcare (Rutgers University-School of Management and Labor Relations); life sciences (BioNJ); advanced manufacturing (New Jersey Institute of Technology); financial services (African-American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey); transportation, logistics and distribution (Rutgers University-John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development); technology and entrepreneurship (New Jersey Institute of Technology); and retail, hospitality and tourism (Stockton College and Fairleigh Dickinson University).

Each talent network uses an employer-led approach to match businesses, and engage industry employers to pinpoint the relevant skills job-seekers need to get jobs in those major industry clusters. Talent networks then provide that information to the state’s educational institutions, employee training providers, state officials and job-seekers. In turn, these skilled, qualified trained employees help New Jersey businesses become more competitive and productive, which benefits the state’s overall economy.

Talent networks should be an employer’s primary point of contact in seeking qualified candidates and workforce services. To learn more about New Jersey talent networks, go to and click on the “Talent Networks” link.


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