A push to market manufacturing jobs — to N.J. residents

Biz leaders feel state’s backing would bring awareness to thousands of high-paying jobs companies struggle to fill

New Jersey and Manufacturing: Perfect Together.

If it sounds like a promotional pitch, that’s because it is. Or, at least, it’s a marketing pitch that some key manufacturing and business officials would like to see the state take on.

John Harmon. (File photo)

John Harmon, the CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, said the state should be visibly behind the sector.

Harmon, speaking Friday during a panel discussion during a State of the State event sponsored by the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, said this type of marketing would create jobs and spur the economy.

“Let’s put some marketing resources behind it,” he said. “We often market the tourism areas, like Atlantic City and (the Shore), but it’s people who have these enterprises that need (help).”

Harmon said he would appreciate the help.

“As the president of the African American Chamber, we’re doing all we can to create better awareness of the manufacturing sector,” he said. “We’re always trying to identify candidates that have the wherewithal to add value.”

John Kennedy. (File photo)

John Kennedy, the CEO of NJMEP, obviously would welcome the idea, too.

“There’s a great bit of talk about New Jersey as the Innovation State,” he said. “And there’s talk about Made in the U.S.A. and Made in Jersey — all of which is great. We need more.”

Kennedy said the state is perfectly positioned to do so.

“STEM sectors are where great growth is expected,” he said. “New Jersey should be leading the way, as we have in the past. This will not happen in a vacuum.”

Here’s the catch: The state already is providing millions of dollars toward job training — even if it’s not promoting what it’s doing.

Sen. Linda Greenstein. (New Jersey Legislature)

State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Cranbury) said a large part of the $500 million of the 2018 Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act goes to fund the expansion of career and technical education, she said.

“More than half the funds were allocated to training our workforce,” she said. “The proposed budget allocates $22.5 million out of the dedicated Workforce Development Partnership fund for additional workforce initiatives at the discretion of the labor commissioner.”

And, while Greenstein notes the state now has nearly 9,000 apprentices in more than 1,000 programs — a seven-year high for both statistics — there still is a lack of awareness. And there still are plenty of jobs that go unfilled.

Kennedy said the state has more than 11,000 manufacturers that create a workforce of 380,000.

Harmon said more people need to know about this.

“I think it starts with just making more folks aware of the existence of the manufacturing sector here in our state and its significance to overall economy,” he said. “Acknowledging that it exists, and then working with (NJMEP) strategically on outreach to individuals who may have not considered manufacturing as a career choice and getting them connected to the thousands of opportunities that exist in the sector.”

Could a marketing campaign be the answer? Kennedy feels it’s worth a try.

“We need well-educated and motivated individuals entering the industry,” he said. “And we, as a state, need to market this as our next step to greatness.”