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New Jersey’s Community Colleges and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) have launched a transformational initiative designed to align the state’s educational system to build an innovative workforce. 

The New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities program will align employers, industry associations, labor unions, educational institutions, and workforce development partners to provide students and workers with structured pathways to find career opportunities and to ensure that employers have access to a highly skilled workforce to meet critical labor market needs.  

“This is a new day for New Jersey’s economy,” said Dr. Aaron Fichtner, president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. “With business and education working together in new and innovative ways, we will ensure New Jersey has the most skilled, innovative, and well-educated workforce in the country.” 

“We ask that educational institutions, businesses, community, and workforce organizations, and others join with us in this important work,” Fichtner said.  

“We are thrilled to join New Jersey’s Community Colleges on this unprecedented partnership to create workforce development pathways for our future workforce,” said NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka. “By coordinating and expanding the collaboration of so many critical stakeholders in such a comprehensive fashion, we truly believe this program will be a game-changer for New Jersey in terms of starting and advancing careers and filling critical employment needs.” 

 This Pathways initiative is led by Collaboratives focused on four industries that are the foundation of the state’s economy: (1) Health Services; (2) Technology and Innovation; (3) Infrastructure and Energy; and (4) Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management. 

“These Collaboratives are designed to obtain high-quality and timely labor market information about the changing needs of employers, and to build an ecosystem of education and training partners to encourage collaboration and information sharing,” Fichtner said. 

Supporting those four Collaboratives will be 10 Centers of Workforce Innovation, which will include education and training partners. All of New Jersey’s 18 Community College partners, as well as high schools, four-year colleges and universities, and community-based training providers across the state will be involved, with the goals of aligning and improving existing curricula, prioritizing industry-valued credentials and developing transfer agreements. 

Among the deliverables for the Pathways initiative is the development of a state strategic workforce plan for each of the four industries; the identification of labor market demand and industry-valued credentials for each industry; the development of detailed career pathway maps to guide the work; and the dissemination of those career pathway maps to students and workers at all levels. 

 “The timeliness of the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities program cannot be understated,” said NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas. “As we respond to the needs of a changing economy and labor market, the collaborative work to develop new curriculum and enhance partnerships is mission critical.” 

“This initiative will position the state to recover from this public health and economic crisis by building strong industry-driven education and training pathways that will be the foundation of the state’s economy for years to come; developing a skilled workforce that can adapt to the changing economy; and providing adults the opportunity to obtain new skills and careers,” said Catherine Frugé Starghill, Esq., Senior Director of Strategy and Workforce Partnerships, New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development. 

 The New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities initiative, which received an appropriation in the FY22 State Budget, launched last week with a video featuring education, business and legislative leaders presented to a group of more than 100 partners.  

New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunity Statewide Convening will be held on January 19, 2022 at Middlesex College in Edison, with the opportunity for interested parties to join virtually or in-person. 

To learn more about the initiative, go to njpathways.org.