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 NJBIA testified before a legislative committee on Thursday in support of a bill that would create a more comprehensive and multi-faceted plan to improve the quality of New Jersey’s manufacturing workforce.

The Assembly Higher Education Committee voted unanimously to advance the legislation, known as the “Manufacturing in Higher Education Act.” The bills, A-2014/S-659, are sponsored by Senator Herb Conaway (D-7) and Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-24).

In testimony submitted to the committee, NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Christopher Emigholz noted the manufacturing sector faced a workforce shortage even prior to the pandemic.

“Exacerbating that crisis further is the fact the manufacturing is not possible to do remotely in this atmosphere where working from home is growing ever more popular,” Emigholz said.

The bill addresses manufacturing workforce deficiencies by aligning many of the critical players in the workforce development space in government, higher education and K-12 and focuses them on meeting the needs of manufacturers in a variety of ways by:

  • Aligning government, education and training providers to manufacturing pathway offered through the New Jersey Community College Consortium’s new Pathways to Career Opportunities program.
  • Establishing a $10 million grant program to support manufacturing workforce development programs for education and training providers and promoting manufacturing career awareness
  • Creating a manufacturing liaison in the New Jersey Business Action Center Directing state government to be more responsive to the needs of the manufacturing industry
  • Establishing a Manufacturing Council in the State Employment Training Commission

Emigholz said the legislation is a top priority for the Manufacturing Counts partnership between NJBIA and the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP).

“Manufacturers are key to our state economy and job creation,” Emigholz said. “The industry has about 250,000 jobs scattered throughout the state, contributed over $56 billion to the state gross domestic product in 2021.

“Manufacturing also has much stronger wages and benefits than other industries and has a robust multiplier effect on the rest of the state economy. And in this industry that often does not require a college degree, finding a skilled workforce has often been the top complaint for years.”