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The New Jersey Business & Industry Association today applauded new legislative initiatives to encourage businesses to start apprenticeships to address both short-term and long-term needs for skilled workers.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker announced introduction of the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act during a press conference at long-time NJBIA member, the Falstrom Company. Assemblyman Gary Schaer pledged to introduce similar legislation on the state level. 

Speaking at the press conference, NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka noted that only 15 percent of NJBIA member companies offered apprenticeships, according to NJBIA’s most recent Business Outlook Survey.

“Given the skills gap, I believe many businesses would like to start an apprenticeship program, but the day-to-day demands of running their businesses get in the way,” Siekerka said.

“Getting an apprenticeship program off the ground takes time and money, and the return on that investment can be a year or more away,” she said. “Financial incentives like those in the LEAP Act can help make it feasible for more businesses to take the plunge.”

Cliff Lindholm, Falstrom president and CEO and a member of NJBIA’s Board of Trustees, has been a tireless advocate for manufacturing in New Jersey, heading up NJBIA’s Manufacturing Network for years and even working with the NJ Department of Labor, NJBIA and county community colleges on new job training programs that directly address manufacturers’ needs. Lindholm and Siekerka also participated in a roundtable discussion immediately following the press conference.

“We hear it from our members every day: They have jobs that they need to fill, and there are plenty of people who want to work, but they don’t have the skills they need,” Siekerka said. “Apprenticeships are an excellent way to give people the on-the-job training that leads to employment, and the LEAP Act is the right approach to help get more businesses on board.”

The LEAP Act would offer federal tax credits of $1,000 or $1,500 to businesses for hiring new apprentices that are registered with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Booker’s office said there are currently over 410,000 apprentices in 19,000 registered apprenticeship programs, representing only 0.2 percent of the total workforce. The LEAP Act promotes economic empowerment by creating a federal version of the apprenticeship tax credit pioneered by South Carolina to help meet the demand for workers with advanced skills.