Manufacturing ‘Pathways’ bill passes Senate committee

The Manufacturing in Higher Education Act (S3216), a bill that would establish a manufacturing career pathway which would be offered through county colleges and vocational schools and aid the manufacturing industry, passed the state Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sparta), said the bill would help solve what could only be called a good economic problem to have: New Jersey’s expanding manufacturing sector continues to create jobs faster than companies can find qualified candidates.

“Manufacturing is back in New Jersey,” Oroho said. “Now, we must help companies fill the job vacancies.

“The dearth of qualified, trained job candidates has become a crisis for the state’s manufacturers. These companies are ready to grow and take on a greater role in the global market, but, without capable employees, they are in a holding pattern.

“This bill will help introduce a new generation of workers to promising career opportunities in manufacturing.”

The bipartisan effort is also sponsored by Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Cranbury). Oroho and Greenstein serve on the Legislative Manufacturing Caucus of New Jersey.

Under the bill, the secretary of higher education, the commissioner of education, the commissioner of labor & workforce development, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools and representatives of the business community would all have a role in designing the pathway.

The manufacturing career pathway will include traditional and advanced manufacturing processes and methods of production including the machinery, technology, tools and equipment used in a wide range of manufacturing industries.

“Young people in our state no longer view manufacturing as a job option, but they could be missing out on an opportunity for a stable, lucrative, long-term career in a growing field,” Oroho said. “Establishing this program in the schools will help change lives for those who capitalize on the training and the jobs available. They can make something of their lives through manufacturing.”

In addition, the measure establishes a $10 million Higher Education Manufacturing Grant Program to create or expand curriculum in manufacturing, manufacturing engineering or advanced manufacturing at public higher education institutions, and creates the New Jersey STEM Entrepreneur Fellowship Program in county colleges and four-year institutions of higher education to fund at least 20 fellowships to support entrepreneurs in the STEM fields.