Jobs NJ: Murphy’s program will work to expand access to post-secondary education, tie those programs to real-world opportunities

Saying New Jersey needs to improve its ability to educate the next generation of workers with the skills required for the jobs of the future, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled his Jobs NJ program — an effort he said will help all people in New Jersey gain the skills they need for today and tomorrow.

“For New Jersey to succeed in the 21st century economy, we must close the gap between the needs of employers and the skills of prospective employees,” he said at the East Brunswick campus of Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools. “With our new plan, we are addressing this problem head-on by ensuring our residents have the critical training and education they need for jobs that are available and in-demand, and connecting them to those jobs. Together, we are changing our trajectory and transforming our state into one with a stronger and fairer economic future for generations to come.”

Murphy said the plan combines a lot of what already is being done under one program. New features include:

  • Expanding access to opportunity by increasing educational attainment among underrepresented minorities and other targeted populations and ensuring equal access to opportunities in all regions of the state;
  • Training individuals for in-demand jobs by connecting educational and training programs to industry needs and leading the region in programs that prepare adults for high-quality jobs throughout their entire careers;
  • Matching talent to jobs by ensuring access to up-to-date job information, celebrating employers that provide high-quality jobs and creating a dedicated team to craft individualized solutions to complex access-to-labor problems.

Jobs NJ was developed by the governor’s Jobs and Economic Opportunity Council, which includes the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development and the New Jersey Department of Education.

Murphy said a number of organizations will be running point on the program — saying different aspects will go to different organizations. But, he said the ability of all of these organizations to work together is key.

“Jobs NJ is a combination of a lot of things that we’re doing already that we’re sort of codifying and putting under one roof, as well as some new steps,” he said. “I don’t think we could aspire to do that whole notion if we didn’t have the extraordinarily good relationships across what too often in the past have been stovepipes in government.

“I give an enormous amount of credit to my colleagues, who have made it their business to ensure that there are no barriers or walls between or among our various government departments and agencies. Because we have that confidence, we can forward a program like this because we know we can take a lot of things that are happening in different places and put them under one roof so that it’s actually effective.”

Tim Sullivan, the CEO of the EDA, said doing so is part of the governor’s overall economic plan, which was introduced in October 2018.

“One of the things that marked (his) approach and marked that strategy as different than anyone else in New Jersey and across the country is that it is a people-centered plan, how people are experiencing the economy with good-quality jobs,” Sullivan said. “The first chapter of that plan is investing in people.”

Sullivan said the plan will ensure New Jersey is protecting the state’s greatest competitive advantage: It’s talent.

“As we sit here right now, we have an unparalleled competitive advantage as it relates to talent,” he said. “Every single conversation with business leaders centers around talent, infrastructure and location. But that’s an asset that can erode very quickly, particularly in a highly competitive, changing economy. And if we’re not making the kind of investments in workforce development and in economic development, we could lose that competitive advantage, and that would be a shame and it would render us in a much more challenging position to compete long-term for the businesses of the future.

“Talent is the most precious commodity of the 21st century economy, and every investment we make in our people is important.”

The program will ensure that this talent comes from all communities. Murphy hopes it will go along way to reach the state’s 65-25 goal, which is having 65% of the population attain some type of post-high school certification or degree by 2025.

There will be special emphasis on doing so in underserved populations, particularly the black and Latino communities. The governor said the plan is to ensure that 250,000 members of those communities will attain a post-secondary credential.

Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis said doing so will have an enormous impact in those communities and the state.

“Higher education plays a pivotal role in the state’s talent pipeline. It has the potential to change lives, to change businesses and to change communities,” she said. “We will continue to work with our sister agencies and stakeholders by building on progress from the state higher education plan so that we can make the Jobs NJ aspirations a reality for our state.”

Read more from ROI-NJ: