New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) will receive more than $1 million for new initiatives that will bolster engineering education, as well as manufacturing and mechatronics apprenticeship training, under the federal spending bill signed by President Joe Biden.
The $1.7 trillion spending package carves out $1.3 million for the two new NJIT initiatives. The community college pre-engineering network initiative will develop community college-serving programs to strengthen the pathway and readiness for traditionally underserved students to pursue a STEM degree.
The advanced manufacturing and mechatronics workforce development initiative will provide upskilling to individuals from underserved and economically disadvantaged communities for in-demand jobs and will advance manufacturing capabilities throughout the state.
Proposals for both these initiatives were developed and led by Principal Investigator Ashish Borgaonkar, assistant professor in the School of Applied Engineering and Technology. Samuel Lieber, Seyyedmoshen Azizi, and Daniel Brateris of the School of Applied Engineering and Technology will serve as co-principal investigators on the advanced manufacturing initiative.
“As the state’s public polytechnic research university, NJIT is a longtime leader in preparing students and professionals to enter the workforce highly sought after and ready to make an immediate impact,” said NJIT President Teik C. Lim. “We are thankful to Senators Menendez and Booker, who continue to recognize NJIT’s impact on the state’s and nation’s economy. The funding for these important initiatives will open more doors for more people, and will yield a better and more diverse workforce. Talent is everywhere, but opportunities are not — we are fixing that.”
In this initiative, NJIT will address the significant gap in the U.S. between open STEM positions and qualified STEM graduates. Community college transfer students have traditionally low acceptance and graduation rates due to a lack of four-year college preparation in rigorous academic programs.
Through the creation of the NJIT STEM Success Academy, a six-week, intensive summer program, eligible students will be introduced to engineering majors and themes, hands-on training, and the impact of engineering on society.
The academy will include a combination of lectures, labs, experiential research and presentations to prepare participants to conduct independent lab and research projects. The academy will also provide participants with peer mentors and tutors who will be part of a coordinated supplemental instruction effort to offer support beyond the classroom and lab environment.
A special effort will be made to recruit underrepresented, minority and female students through coordinated efforts with the academy’s partner, the New Jersey Community College Consortium (NJCCC). Each year, the United States has millions more available STEM jobs than it has skilled workers to fill them, and more than 60% of Black and Hispanic engineers graduating from New Jersey public universities come from NJIT. The NJCCC will leverage its resources and strong ties with all the member colleges. To achieve the partnership’s goals, there will be a critical and ongoing effort to inform, generate enthusiasm and provide resources for community college students to enroll in this initiative.
The pre-apprenticeship initiative is a 10-month program that will prepare participants to move into entry-level technician or artisan positions and apprenticeships. Through supervised instruction, training, hands-on experience and background education, the initiative covers manufacturing skills in machinery, mechanical and electrical devices and mechatronics, PLC programming, operation, troubleshooting, repair, maintenance, standards and safety.
The training will prepare students for the National Institute for Metalworking Skills Industrial Technology Maintenance credentials.
The project team includes experienced faculty from NJIT’s School of Applied Engineering and Technology, technical experts and student career-services professionals who will effectively address the technical, instructional, pedagogical, support and career-preparation needs of the participants. The team will be supported by NJIT’s long-standing recruitment partners, including the Newark and Essex County Workforce Development Boards, Newark Alliance, New Jersey Community College Consortium, Schools That Can, the New Jersey Re-Entry Program, and a number of high schools in the Greater Newark area.
The initiative will focus on recruiting and engaging a diverse pool of participants from underrepresented backgrounds, primarily individuals aged 16 to 30, with a strong emphasis on minority, women, dislocated workers, disadvantaged and low-income individuals from the Greater Newark area.
Anchoring both initiatives will be NJIT’s Makerspace, which features over $3 million in state-of-the-art equipment ranging from industrial to small prototyping machines. The 21,000-square-foot center makes it the largest educational facility of its kind in New Jersey, and offers students a wide scope of hands-on learning.
“NJIT is uniquely positioned to provide exemplary education and experiential learning opportunities for engineers and technologists,” said Moshe Kam, dean of NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering. “The Makerspace at NJIT is a rich resource for engineers, designers, manufacturing professionals and skilled tradespeople, and offers a direct link to the equipment and processes found in industry.”
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