The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development by June 15 will award $1.6 million in federal grants to work force experts for six new "talent networks" designed to create jobs in growing sectors of the New Jersey economy.
Labor Commissioner Harold J. Wirths outlined the talent network expansion Monday night at an annual forum sponsored by the United Way of Northern New Jersey, held at the College of St. Elizabeth, in the Convent Station section of Morris Township.
Aaron Fichtner, assistant commissioner of labor planning and analysis, said grant proposals are due Thursday, and the department has received numerous inquiries from groups interested in leading talent networks. Higher education institutions, nonprofits, industry associations and social service nonprofits are eligible to apply for grants to launch talent networks.
The talent networks will target transportation, logistics and distribution; life sciences; advanced manufacturing; financial services; health care; and technology and entrepreneurship. A seventh, focusing on green jobs, will be launched in the fall. Wirths said this new initiative builds on the success of the 2008 talent networks in sciences and transportation — both proven job generators
Fichtner said the premise of the talent networks "is that we work force folks need to do a better job of connecting to employers, and do a better job of making sure that individuals are prepared for jobs throughout the economy." The networks will engage closely with employers to assess where the job market is headed. In the past, "there have been ad hoc initiatives here and there to reach out to employers, but it has not been done in an aggressive, coordinated fashion."