Corporations have been pouring millions of dollars into workforce development in Newark to build a trained workforce that can meet the demands of the constantly changing economy. Training programs here, which often involve corporate partnerships with nonprofits, the city, its schools and anchor institutions, are diverse and have both business and social impacts.
“We have committed more than $1 billion to Newark to improve education, connect residents to employment pathways, improve financial health, create safe streets and neighborhoods, and invest in redevelopment projects that have created new housing, retail and more,” says Sarah Keh, vice president of inclusive solutions at Prudential Financial and secretary of the Prudential Foundation. Prudential is an anchor partner of Mayor Ras Baraka’s Hire.Buy.Live Initiative, Hire Newark and the Newark Alliance’s CareerWorks. The company also supports Newark’s Summer Youth Employment program, the Newark Opportunity Youth Network and Year Up, which are providing skills training and connecting Newark youth to internship opportunities with area companies. Additionally, Prudential also helped Per Scholas launch a Newark site in 2019 to provide high quality, tuition-free technology training in IT support, cybersecurity, software engineering and more to residents.
“We’re focused on creating safe, healthy, thriving neighborhoods, connecting Newark residents to high quality jobs, and building financial security and intergenerational wealth for Newark families,” Keh says.
At Panasonic North America, workforce development initiatives in the city include its Careers in Tech Event Series, which brings Newark students to the company’s headquarters to meet its technology professionals, ask questions, seek advice, and learn more about available career paths. The company also partners with NJ LEEP (Law and Education Empowerment Project) to bring students in for a week of learning about different areas of business and careers at Panasonic.
“Our work with and support of Per Scholas Newark, Newark Public Schools’ Black Men Rising Coalition and Latino Men Rising Coalition, All Star Code, and Braven is aimed at creating economic opportunity for young men and women of color by supplying them with the tools they need to succeed in the innovation economy,” Panasonic Foundation Executive Director Alejandra Ceja says. She is also vice president of the Office of Social Impact and Inclusion. The company recently introduced its Connections and Conversations program, which invites local education professionals to discuss how to develop the next generation of leaders for future tech jobs.
Fast-growing new technologies like Artificial Intelligence threaten to broaden the skills gap, especially in places with undertrained populations. So, accessing training that helps workers learn fast is essential.
Sam Caucci, founder and CEO of 1Huddle, says 87% of what employees learn in training is forgotten within 30 days. Caucci and 1Huddle developed “science-backed, quick-burst mobile training games” to increase engagement.
“As you play, you retain information at a higher rate and you look forward to playing, so you’re going to use the training more,” Caucci says. “It’s game-based learning and 55% of the workforce today are Gen Z or millennials and they grew up with games.”
Caucci started 1Huddle six years ago in the San Francisco Bay area, but moved to Newark at the suggestion of one of his earliest investors, Newark Venture Partners, which was founded by Don Katz, the founder and executive chairman of Audible.
“In Newark, only one in three workers has a college degree and one in two are only a $400 ticket away from poverty,” Caucci says. “The city is super connected by WiFi. We built 1Huddle to work on any smartphone, so there’s no issue with equity.”
Caucci, who is on the city’s Workforce Development Board and chairs Newark’s Tech Task Force, says 80% of city residents go someplace else to work. “The city wants to change that by helping local residents show the credentials they have,” he says.
RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) takes a hire-local approach in support of the city’s economy, and recruits in targeted zip codes to hire employees from the community. The healthcare system hired 698 Newark residents last year, 223 of them at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, according to Dr. Paul Alexander, executive vice president and chief health equity and transformation officer. RWJBH collaborates with the Newark Workforce Development Board on projects such as the recent re-launch of the HOSA – Future Health Professionals Program held after school at the Allied Health Academy at Weequahic High School.
RWJBH also supports employees by helping them find college grants and scholarships.
“Our system has relationships with all of New Jersey’s community and four-year colleges and universities, and we have a dedicated navigator to guide employees throughout the college enrollment process,” Dr. Alexander says.
“We have seen the benefits of hiring locally, including lower turnover and higher retention among the ranks of our employees,” Dr. Alexander says. “By employing and upskilling our local community members, we ensure that our workforce reflects the patients we serve.”
Turner Construction Company is attempting to tap into Newark’s workforce as it continues to undertake large and often complex projects in the city.” In Newark, Turner partners with Malcolm X-Shabazz High School as well as Technology High School to be a part of the schools’ engineering and advisory councils and gauge students’ interest in construction at an early age, explains Dexter Hendricks, vice president of community and citizenship.
“We have quite a few projects online or about to start in Newark,” Hendricks says, adding that Turner works with both large and small industry subcontractors and partners. “We have the Turner School of Construction Management, a free program for minority- and women-owned small businesses that is geared toward introducing them to commercial construction. We know that minority businesses tend to hire minority people.”
Hendricks says the approach has been successful for Turner and the companies it contracts with, which are growing and hiring more staff.
Is it evident that corporations engaged in workforce training in Newark share the goal of closing the talent gap for their own sake as well as the city’s benefit.
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