The Governor’s Training, Reentry & Employment Center held its grand opening this morning in Kearny. The mission of the three-story, 25,000-square-foot facility is to provide the formerly incarcerated with the industry credentials they need to obtain a career in high-demand fields.
Operated by the New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC), a nonprofit agency dedicated to removing all barriers to employment for citizens returning from jail or prison, the center houses nine classrooms and conference spaces where NJRC participants will receive training in six major certification skill sets: 1) Solar Technology, 2) Construction Industry, 3) CISCO Certification Networking Technician Certification, 4) Automobile Mechanics Training, 5) SEIU/Health Care Maintenance, and 6) GED/high school diploma, as well as, providing private access to Telemedicine and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT).
Former Gov. Jim McGreevey, NJRC chairman, commended the broad array of public and private sector leaders who played a major role in helping the NJRC not only open the facility, but who are continuing to help center clients find gainful employment. This includes Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. In conjunction with NJRC, NJBIA has established the New Jersey Workforce and Reentry Workgroup.
“Our goal is to bring together New Jersey business leaders with those seeking jobs,” Siekerka said. “This is a win for previously incarcerated individuals looking for their next career opportunity. We know the barriers are tremendous for them in seeking employment. We are here to bring those barriers down.”
Siekerka said the effort is also a win for companies who need highly skilled workers for the in-demand jobs.
McGreevey thanked Wendy Neu, CEO of Hugo Neu Corporation, for donating the center’s building, which is located within Hugo Neu’s 130-acre Kearny Point business center.
Having worked in prisons many years ago as a social worker, Neu commented, “I left the prison, but the prison never actually leaves you.”
“The one thing that has become clear is that we can no longer afford to look away at the grotesque and egregious inequities that exist in this country today,” Neu said. “We have the opportunity to make something good out of something bad. This [facility] is part of the answer; providing people with the skills and training they need to participate in our economy. That is what Kearny Point is about. We have become a model for a new type of development and economy where we can all share in the prosperity and not leave people behind. This center is what the world should look like.”
Gov. Phil Murphy said the facility is “a space where the seeds of opportunity and hope will be planted … a space where our New Jersey values are front and center.”
“Our administration fully believes in second chances,” Murphy said. “With the opening of this center, the opportunity for second chances is being further realized through access to education, career training, and jobs. It is offering a path forward to true rehabilitation and reintegration.”
The most poignant comment this morning was made by a 55-year-old man who received help from NJRC. A heroin user from age 12 to 50, who served some 23 years in the prison system, the man thanked McGreevey and the NJRC for its vision and for saving his life. “I am here to tell you that from 1982 to 2020, I thought I would not be able to make it. I am making it now. The process worked. The NJRC process showed me something I never saw before … love. Love conquers hate. This program showed love!”
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