What’s the best way for the New Jersey economy to be revitalized and re-charged from the disruptions caused by COVID?

A new report offers recommendations for rebuilding the Garden State workforce in a post-pandemic economy.

Chrissy Buteas, the chief government affairs officer for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said over the past several months a special Focus NJ taskforce of more than 100 business, academic and government experts came up with a series of recommendations.

“We need to all work together — business, academia, and our educational institutions and our government officials ... to make sure that we’re connecting the dots," she said.

Buteas said the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact “especially on our first-generation college students, students of color, women, minority workers, also those with disabilities and low income families.”

“The taskforce’s recommendations provide the framework to reskill, reshape and rehire New Jersey at a critical time when there has been so much economic and workforce disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic,” NJBIA President & CEO Michele Siekerka said. “These challenging times demand that New Jersey prioritize strategic planning for long-term workforce solutions.”

Recommendations

Expanding partnerships and improving state-level collaboration between employers, educational institutions, and government agencies through the creation of a Workforce Development Committee under the auspices of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, which represents community colleges and the state’s public and private four-year colleges and universities.

Creating strategic partnerships between the new Workforce Development Committee and the various county workforce development boards in New Jersey to increase communication and collaboration on workforce development issues.

Train for today’s jobs and tomorrow’s using predictive analytics to identify emerging industries and modify both credit and non-credit curricula to accurately reflect the skill sets needed for jobs in the Garden State.

Create continuing education courses in emerging industries for K-12 teachers, who are required to earn at least 20 hours of professional development each year.

Increase career pathway awareness through activities such as “career planning seminars” in middle school and early high school to introduce students to career pathways and accompanying educational requirements.

Enhance business volunteer and mentorship programs in K-12 classrooms.

Develop an industry-recognized, coordinated, and standardized roadmap for credentialing and certifications that clearly outlines pathways to degree programs.

Expand recognition of the value of all types of higher education and career pathway options, including on-ramps to credentials, degrees, and professional development.

Create a “Back to Work” public messaging campaign promoting the safe return to work and upskilling/re-skilling opportunities for displaced and unemployed workers.

Expand corporation business tax and gross income tax credits to include businesses that invest in employee workforce development training.

Ensure Equitable Access to Education & Workforce Development Opportunities,

Improve underachieving school districts.

Advocate to New Jersey’s congressional delegation for the expansion of federal Pell Grants to noncredit learners and graduate students.

Enact legislation to expand eligibility for financial aid from New Jersey’s Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and provide low-income students the ability to receive training grants for in-demand noncredit and/or certification programs taught by state-approved training providers.

Expand New Jersey’s transportation systems to increase commuting options for those seeking education and workforce training.

Create business tax credits to incentivize employers to subsidize commuting costs for employees using public transportation to get to work or to attend workforce development training or education courses.

Ensure all New Jerseyans have reliable and consistent access to broadband, as well as IT hardware and software.

Continue to invest in childcare, early childhood education, and universal preschool at reduced cost for low-income families.

Enhance and promote the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The full Education Equation report can be found here.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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