Congratulations on the launch of Focus NJ. What are the goals of this foundation?

Thank you, this is a very exciting opportunity. As we recently announced, Focus NJ is an independent non-profit entity conducting timely, innovative, nonpartisan economic and workforce research to support sound public policy in New Jersey. It’s critical that we have data to ensure our individuals and businesses can thrive.

So Focus NJ will have three priority areas from which to generate these solutions – workforce development, education and economic trends. These are areas where NJBIA has been well-steeped. But Focus NJ will take a deeper and more expansive dive.

Nicole Sandelier

Nicole Sandelier

What are some of the challenges New Jersey business owners face relating to workforce development?

While the economy is good and unemployment is low, employers regularly tell us that they can’t fill certain jobs because their incoming workforce lacks technical, as well as employability skills, such as, problem solving, teamwork, and self-direction. We know that strategies and programs to deliver these skills do exist. But awareness of them and coordination among them is greatly lacking.

New Jersey is also not the only place where workplace dynamics are changing. The World Economic Forum, for example, estimates that 54% of the global workforce will require upskilling or reskilling by 2022. Globally, an estimated 75 million human jobs may be replaced by technologies. However, 133 million new roles are likely to emerge in a new workforce that includes humans, machines, and algorithms.

So we believe our research will help inform and identify what business owners need in this continuously changing workplace market, particularly and more granularly in different industries throughout New Jersey.

Tell us about the research approach you’re bringing to Focus NJ.

It will be both quantitative and qualitative. We will spend a great deal of time analyzing numbers and trends over time, such as employment, wages, and GDP to name a few.  The qualitative approach allows us to dive deeper than just the numbers.

We will also host focus groups and conduct surveys with stakeholders throughout the state, such as business and academic leaders.  Analyzing the numbers will reveal part of the story, but frequent communication with stakeholders is a “boots on the ground” approach that will allow us to grasp the full picture of the changing dynamics of New Jersey’s workforce needs.

Can we expect to see new research released anytime soon?

Yes!  In the coming weeks, Focus NJ will release the first report of a statewide Industry Series Study detailing the changing dynamics, opportunities and threats to seven different industries.  In addition, the study will also identify skill sets of the future and will provide recommendations on how to better prepare New Jersey’s future workforce pipeline.

So far, the results have been fascinating. We’ve had the opportunity to present preliminary findings to multiple academic audiences that encompass K-12, two-year institutions, and four-year institutions.  Our findings have been both welcomed and well-received.

Can employers get involved in these studies?

Absolutely! We’re so grateful for the incredible feedback we have received so far for our statewide Industry Series and we’re still seeking more feedback. For those who would like to volunteer to get involved to help us broaden our data, all they have to do is email me at nsandelier@focusnj.org. We’re also encouraging folks to check out our website at focusnj.org, where you can get regular updates and find our social media links to follow.

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