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Businesses struggling to find skilled entry-level workers may soon have a new source of qualified candidates—the long-term unemployed. The Legislature just gave final approval to a pilot program that would provide training in math, literacy, technical and communications skills for unemployed and underemployed workers.

“New Jersey’s unemployment rate has been hovering at around 4% for some time now, so it has been a job seekers market,” said NJBIA Vice President for Government Affairs Mike Wallace. “This bill recognizes that if someone cannot find the work they want or deserve in this market, then job skills and training is an issue.

“This bill would help fill that gap and give employers a much-needed source of employees for jobs that are open right now,” Wallace said.

The bill, A-4164 (DeAngelo, Wirths)/S-1887 (Singleton, Greenstein), would direct the labor department create the year-long career and technical education certification program. Enhanced training for high-demand occupations, including the restaurant and hospitality industry, would be available.

The program would be funded by the Workforce Development Partnership Fund and expire in July 2022. The department must send a progress report with recommendations to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2022.