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State puts priority on hiring laid-off pharma workers

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Companies in New Jersey that are hiring now have a financial incentive to fill those open positions with former pharmaceutical industry employees.

Under a new on-the-job training program, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development will reimburse each employer between 50 percent and 90 percent of a new hire's salary for up to six months, to a maximum of $14,000.

The program is designed to help pharmaceutical workers from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hoffman-La Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co. and Pfizer Inc. who lost their jobs as a result of mergers.

Debbie Hart

"This is a welcome addition to the tools Governor (Chris) Christie and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development have provided to help retain pharmaceutical industry workers who were laid off and to help the biotech industry find the talent it needs," said Debbie Hart, president and CEO of BioNJ. "The biotech industry, which is still growing, has the benefit of the huge pool of talent that New Jersey has. It's important to keep this talent in the state. It's an important part of our economy."

In 2011, New Jersey had 30,200 pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing employees, compared to a high of 40,800 in 2005, according to Labor statistics.

Employers from all industries in New Jersey are eligible to participate. The program is being offered under a 2010 federal grant obtained by Labor and managed in collaboration with the state's life sciences talent network.

"As a former business owner, I fully understand the expense associated with training new employees," said Labor Commissioner Harold J. Wirths. "This is an opportunity for employers to bring on new staff and offset their training costs. The program benefits employers and employees and will help stimulate job growth here in New Jersey."

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