Michele Siekerka DISRUPT

It’s Time to Think Differently about the Future of NJ’s Workforce

The Northern New Jersey chapter of DISRUPT (DISRUPT NNJ) hosted its second ever event Thursday night in Florham Park. DISRUPT is a non-profit international network of meet-ups designed to provide knowledge sharing and networking opportunities, with a focus on innovation, talent, culture and technology.

The event itself featured 10 engaging five-minute presentations – with PowerPoint slides changing automatically every 15 seconds – touching on a diverse array of topics centered on the theme of the “future of work.”

Ken Kuhl, vice president, client services, Logical Design Solutions, and DISRUPT NNJ chapter founder, said the reason for the five minute “mini-TED Talks” is to provide as much information to the audience as fast as possible. “It’s highly engaging, it’s fun and it’s energetic,” he said. “It keeps [the speakers] to the point. The purpose is to offer new ideas, make people think differently, and leave them inspired.”

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of New Jersey Business & Industry Association, discussed New Jersey’s millennial outmigration problem in her presentation titled “Mining Our Intellectual Capital in NJ.”

Siekerka pointed out that in 2014, 96,000 individuals in New Jersey sought a post-secondary education degree or certification – unfortunately, 56 percent of them did so outside of the state.

“We need to improve attractability for post-secondary education in New Jersey, and we need to improve our collaboration with each other on how we build models for post-secondary education,” she said, emphasizing the importance of promoting career pathways earlier than ever before.

Citing a 142 percent increase in the cost of a post-secondary education in New Jersey over 25 years, Siekerka said that affordability remains the most important factor that needs to be addressed.

“We need to get government to focus their investment in higher education in a way to deliver this product quicker and more affordable for New Jersey’s millennials,” Siekerka said.

Given there are 44,000 vacant positions for middle- level-skill jobs in the state, Siekerka said that an honest discussion needs to take place regarding training for the skillsets necessary for  the in-demand jobs currently available.

Changing the way that people view middle-level-skill jobs is critical as well.

“We need to bring visibility to guidance counselors, parents and students about the fact that careers in middle-level-skill jobs are sustainable over time, and provide great wages to live and work in the state of New Jersey,” Siekerka added.

Nearly 250 individuals were in attendance for what was DISRUPT NNJ’s second bi-annual event.

According to Mimi Brooks, CEO of Logical Design Solutions, “DISRUPT NNJ is uniquely suited to facilitate a provocative information exchange for New Jersey business leaders focused on innovations in human capital, culture, and work design.”

To access more business news, visit njbmagazine.com

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