By Mike Wallace, V.P., Government Affairs, New Jersey Business & Industry Association
New Jersey has a significant labor mismatch between the skills workers have and those that businesses need, but it’s not a matter of finding more college graduates.
Businesses need middle-skill workers – those with an advanced skill set typically achieved through post-secondary education or training, but not necessarily a four-year degree. This gap is holding back some key sectors of the economy, most notably manufacturing.
The Skills Gap. According to a report from McKinsey & Company, 53 percent of New Jersey jobs are appropriate for people with middle-skills, yet only 37 percent of the state’s workforce fall into this category. It’s not going to change any time soon; the same report predicts that 50 percent of all job openings through 2024 will require these middle skills.
Also contributing to the skills gap problem is outmigration. Millennials (those between 18 and 34 years old) are the largest demographic of people leaving New Jersey. Graduates taking their talents elsewhere drain the availability of skilled workers for the future and leave the state with little return on its investment in their top-notch K-12 education.
Advanced Manufacturing Training Program. Through the New Jersey County College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development’s Advanced Manufacturing Training initiative, participating businesses work with county colleges to recruit, train and certify people to fill job openings.
Two mobile training labs can conduct training anywhere in New Jersey for two in-demand manufacturing skills – metal fabrication and mechatronics. More than 200 previously unemployed individuals have been trained – and most of them certified in national credentials – in metal fabrication, CNC machining, and production technology.
Manufacturing Caucus. Launched in 2017, the legislative manufacturing caucus is a group of 16 Senators and Assembly members dedicated to developing policies to advance manufacturing in New Jersey. Kicking off in August, the caucus has since held several hearings with manufacturers throughout the state. This year, the focus is on improving the manufacturing industry, including initiatives aimed at closing the skills gap.
Manufacturing as a Career. With the crisis of college student debt, manufacturing and other technical skill jobs can be an affordable career alternative.
Manufacturing pays much more than other industries; people in mechatronics, for instance, make an average of $105,000 per year. Students deserve to know all of the options available to them.