New Jersey community college leaders gather for NJ Pathways year-two kickoff

New Jersey community college leaders, with the state’s 10 Centers of Workforce Innovation, part of the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities initiative, gathered at Mill One in Hamilton last week, to review, highlight and celebrate milestones achieved during the initiative’s first year.

“The work we are doing is transformative and has the real potential to change lives and strengthen the economy,” Aaron Fichtner, New Jersey Council of County Colleges president, said to the crowd of about 80. “Our work is gaining national attention, and we are so proud of the partnerships and the hard work we have done collectively to make this happen. We are doing exciting, cutting-edge work, happening in a larger scale than anywhere else in this country, and it’s being noticed. It is only possible with all of you, and I am incredibly proud of the deep and sustainable partnerships that we have collectively achieved among our community colleges.”

NJ Pathways — formed by New Jersey’s community colleges and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association — brings together industry and education partners to form an education ecosystem that is connected statewide and is guided by industry leaders to build an innovative workforce in the Garden State. This cutting-edge initiative now has more than 1,200 industry and education partners statewide, helping to propel New Jersey’s economy to new heights.

“We were building the plane as we were flying… as much as I hate that analogy, it is true. You all shared your wisdom, your expertise and your knowledge to make NJ Pathways a success — a ‘best in class’ in the nation — and you deserve a round of applause. You made this happen, and, at times, it was painful, as things often are when we shift the paradigm. Now, as we move into year two, it will require more blood, sweat and tears, but we know you’re ready for what it’s going to take,” Catherine Frugé Starghill, NJCCC vice president and executive director, stated.

“NJCCC’s vision is focused both on increasing the attainment of post-secondary industry credentials and degrees to meet the state’s credential attainment goal of 65 by 25 and addressing persistent and troubling equity gaps in the state’s economy,” Fichtner added.

NJ Pathways milestones achieved during year one include:

  • The creation of 10 Centers of Workforce Innovation in four sectors — health services, technology and innovation, infrastructure and energy, and manufacturing and supply chain management.
  • The Centers of Workforce Innovation — with New Jersey’s community colleges working together in an unprecedented way — have connected and enhanced 22 education and training pathways within the four fastest-growing industries in the state.
  • The creation of sustainable partnerships — “a paradigm shift” — between industry and education. We engaged industry to directly influence pathways so future employees will have the skills and training needed by business in New Jersey.
  • The entire initiative now has 1,200-plus industry and education partners, and the Centers of Workforce Innovation include 20 high schools, 17 community colleges, nine four-year colleges and universities, eight labor unions and four community-based training providers.

Moving forward to year two of NJ Pathways, NJCCC announced the creation of an online repository at — to be completed late spring — to house Pathway documents and curriculum so they can be shared with education partners statewide. An upcoming National Pathways Summit in June was also announced. Further, Collaborative Brag and Share Sessions will also be held in the upcoming months. The crowd of community college leaders were also informed that “the Big Data Alliance” is partnering with NJ Pathways for a convening of four-year colleges and universities and community colleges at Middlesex County College in April.