TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Sandra Bolden Cunningham, M. Teresa Ruiz and Fred H. Madden that would create a commission to identify policies that will improve the ability of the state’s schools and public institutions of higher education to meet the demands of tomorrow’s employers was approved today by the Senate Higher Education Committee. The commission will receive input from two boards, tasked with looking at education and future workforce needs.
“In order to ensure that our economy continues to grow and strengthen, it is imperative that we have the foresight to prepare the students of today for the jobs in the growth industries of the future – including jobs in biotechnology and life sciences, engineering and advanced manufacturing,” said Senator Cunningham, (D-Hudson) Chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee. “Bringing together the state’s educational and business leaders to assess how we can improve key transition points in our residents’ training – such as from high school to college or from college into the workforce – we can decrease the state’s skills gap and increase workforce readiness, improving our economic forecast for the future.”
The two advisory boards created under the bill would look at ways to improve the ability of New Jersey’s schools, colleges and universities to meet the demands of tomorrow’s employers from two separate perspectives – the educational and the business.
Under the bill, S-2483, the boards would be tasked with determining how the state could improve coordination and enhance relationships between the state’s colleges and universities, k-12 school districts and the business community; align education and training strategies with employer needs in key industries; develop an education and training strategy for key industries based on an understanding of future workforce and skill needs; and identify current programs that may be underutilized that could prepare students for jobs in key industries.
The Advisory Boards will be overseen by the “New Jersey Workforce Development and Education Commission,” created under the bill and consisting of the Secretary of Higher Education, the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Commissioner of the Department of Education and a representative of the New Jersey Business Action Center.
“It is critical that our children graduate high school prepared for college or a career, but we must also make sure that our students have the skills they need to secure jobs in high-growth fields. That means better preparing them in science and math, areas were we are lagging behind our global counterparts,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex), Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. “Collaboration between education and business is vital to improving our educational offerings and ensuring that our students are equipped to compete for the jobs of tomorrow, particularly those being offered right here in New Jersey.”
According to Complete College America, a national nonprofit focused on closing the achievement gap, by 2020, 66 percent of New Jersey jobs will require a college certificate or degree. Currently only 46 percent of New Jersey adults have an associate’s degree or higher. The Senators note that this legislation is the first step in closing a 20 percent skills gap.
“We have to do the smart things that will prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow with the skills they need to compete in a rapidly-evolving economy,” said Senator Madden, (D-Camden/Gloucester) Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee. “By having the business community work with schools and colleges we can stay on the cutting edge with job training and an education that serves the best needs of a modern economy. This bill will help accomplish that.”
The measure is part of a four-bill package focused on workforce training and job creation that is working its way through the Senate. It was approved by the Higher Education Committee with a vote of 4-0. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
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