Camden Mayor Frank Moran and U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross announced Wednesday the launch of a new initiative to act as a hub for the county, the city, employers, career sites, training programs and city residents.
It includes a new office in the city’s administration, the details of which are still being ironed out. The ultimate goal of the office is to help prepare residents for positions at companies in Camden.
City spokesman Vincent Basara said the initiative was part of the mayor’s campaign before he was elected, but was spurred by recent comments about the city’s workforce.
“This was always a priority for him,” Basara said. “The city is doing well, in terms of economic development.
“The difference now is that you’re speaking with the HR departments … so, when a job comes up, making sure that this office is coordinating with the large employers or midsize employers, and making sure the pipeline we’re preparing is ready to apply for the jobs.”
The event was held at a building on Rowan University’s Camden campus.
Norcross (D-N.J.) said there will be dedicated personnel to help facilitate the exchange of communication and ensure that residents are able to be matched to potential employers.
It’s not too different from efforts being made for apprenticeship programs around the state in the medical and manufacturing sectors, he said.
“There’s 15 different craft unions, but there’s almost 35 different trades,” he said.
That’s a lot of untapped potential — and getting all parties to the table will help bring greater attention to the opportunities that exist, Norcross said.
That could be one of the reasons why the event was well-attended.
The event, which came together in less than a week, brought together companies that typically compete, programs that typically don’t work together and leaders who don’t often get to meet.
“Bringing together such a diverse crowd of not only those who need employees, but the trainers — and, now, the trainers are talking to the different companies — (is important),” Norcross said. “It’s trying to keep everybody together.”
Susan Bass Levin, CEO and president of the Cooper Foundation, said the purpose of the event was to open the lines of communication in the city.
“Now that there are so many new businesses coming into town, we have an opportunity that we didn’t have before,” she said. “I think it’s important that we maximize those opportunities. It’s important that we change rapidly with the times so that we do train people for the right jobs.”
Levin said she didn’t think there had been a missing link to opportunities in the city.
“I don’t think it’s been missing,” she said. “I think it’s that you could always do more.
“To do better is our goal.”
Levin also said that, in the 10 years she has worked in Camden, the conversation about jobs and the workforce have been ongoing.
“With the new businesses coming into this town, it’s elevated the conversation because, now, finally, there are jobs and opportunities, in a way that you never had before,” she said. “(At Cooper) we have job training programs; the key is to train for jobs where we know there are going to be opportunities.”
One small business recently told ROI-NJ that part of the problem is a lack of information, or a lack of a profile of the current workforce in Camden.
Basara said the city could coordinate with a number of organizations and research facilities within the city limits to produce something such as that.
“This Camden Works program will actually help with collecting some of that important data to see where we are,” he said. “We know things like unemployment are dropping, we know more people are being hired … we don’t really know the statistical data beyond that.
“Camden Works is going to be a partnership. We have a lot of resources out there. It’s just a matter of making sure each of them talk.”