Business Group Says NJ Should Teach Students Better Job Skills
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association is out with a report that makes recommendations on how to keep millennials in the Garden State in order to develop New Jersey’s future workforce.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau the problem of millennials, ages 18 to 34, leaving New Jersey continues to get worse.
“New Jersey’s millennials are the largest moving population in the nation and they’re moving out of the state of New Jersey," said Michele Siekerka, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. “That is our future workforce.”
Siekerka also said when you look at the cost of K-12 education in the state, it suggests “we’re not getting a good return on our investment when we’re investing approximately $20,000 per pupil per year.”
The Postsecondary Education Task Force report, which included input from the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, puts forth a number of recommendations.
Because New Jersey is the 4th most expensive state in the nation when it comes to attending a public college or university, the report recommends “continuing responsible and consistent investment by state government into post-secondary education.”
“We need to develop cost-saving models for students to achieve stackable credentials or degrees. The pathway to higher education doesn’t have to be the traditional way of four years at one time.”
The report recommends creatively reducing the need for remedial education after a student graduates from high school, and reviewing the process of transferring credits among post-secondary institutions to help transfer students save money by not having to repeat classes they can't get credit for.
Another major area that can be improved is skill building.
“Our employers are consistently telling us the incoming workforce lacks the technical as well as the employability skills to be ready for on the job when they arrive,” said Siekerka.
She noted one way for students to build and enhance their skills is by vocational and technical training but we need more of these types of schools in order to meet demand in New Jersey.
Another key finding of the report is “degree inflation.”
Siekerka stressed you don’t necessarily need a degree in order to develop mid-level skills that get young people a good paying job.
“We have large segments of our society who possess great skill but often are overlooked for a job due to the lack of that college degree,” she said.
“If we put a re-focus on building middle level skills for the mid-level jobs in the state of New Jersey we can make a difference in rebuilding the middle class in New Jersey.”
She pointed out “there are easily over 40,000 vacant jobs today in the state of New Jersey for middle-level skilled jobs that pay well and could afford people to live, work and play in the state of New Jersey.”
The report recommends enhancing technical programs and “create employer-driven training programs and curricula to help prepare students for the jobs of the future, promote and expand apprenticeship and internship programs to expose more young people to work-based learning.”
She added another important recommendation of the report is to introduce career pathways to students at a younger age.