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NJBIA testified on Tuesday in support of a bill that would strengthen manufacturing career pathways at county colleges and county vo-tech schools, create fellowships to support entrepreneurs in STEM fields, and provide $10 million in grants to higher education institutions to expand manufacturing curricula.

NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz told the Senate Higher Education Committee that, S-3216, sponsored by Senators Steve Oroho (R-24) and Linda Greenstein (D-14), represents a “multifaceted and comprehensive approach to improve the workforce needed by New Jersey manufacturers.”

“We are in a workforce crisis in this state and that’s why this bill is so important because it will align the key players in the workforce development space in government, higher education and K-12 schools and focus them on meeting the needs of manufacturers in a variety of ways,” Emigholz said.

Emigholz said NJBIA also enthusiastically supported the entrepreneur fellowship program created under the legislation, which will bolster New Jersey’s efforts to be an innovation leader.

“Innovation and workforce development are keys to both the success of the manufacturing industry and the entire state economy,” Emigholz said. “Manufacturers are still a significant employer in New Jersey, and this is an industry that creates good, high-paying jobs that are important to economic growth.”

Under the bill, the Secretary of Higher Education, the Commissioner of Education, the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the New Jersey Council of County Vocational Schools, and representatives of the business community, would design a manufacturing career pathway to be offered through the county colleges and county vocational school districts. This pathway will cover traditional and advanced manufacturing processes and methods, including machinery, technology, tools, and equipment used in range of manufacturing industries.

The bill also creates 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.

The legislation also establishes 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. The fellowships would be provided to individuals who have proven to the secretary of Higher Education that they have an idea to create, advance or develop a product in the STEM field that will benefit society and result in a self-sustaining business in the future.

Emigholz said the need for workforce development initiatives has been spotlighted in numerous public hearings held by the nonpartisan Legislative Manufacturing Caucus.

“We’ve heard loud and clear during all the Caucus’ hearings that workforce development is one of the top issues – if not the top issue – for manufacturers,” Emigholz said. “And manufacturing is a critical industry in this state.”

The Senate Higher Education Committee did not vote on the bill today.

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