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State adds two new talent networks focused on Sandy rebuild

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The state today announced the launch of two new “talent networks” focused on workforce development in recovering from Sandy and in developing hospitality and tourism.

Labor Commissioner Harold J. Wirths announced the new talent networks today during a speech to the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey. Ocean County College, which will host the Recovery New Jersey network, will receive a $250,000 grant to do so, while Stockton College and Fairleigh Dickinson University each will receive $200,000 for the Retail, Hospitality and Tourism network.

According to the DOL, the Sandy talent network will "assess the overall needs of the (Sandy)-impacted employers, and this is not limited to one industry." The talent network will determine the needs in workforce skills and how the state can help employers overcome the challenges from Sandy by working with the governor's Office of Recovery and Rebuilding.

"These two new talent networks were created in direct response to superstorm Sandy and the economic challenges posed by the storm," Wirths said. The recovery talent network's function is obvious, in that regard, "while the retail, hospitality and tourism tzalent network will assist employers in a major New Jersey industry cluster that suffered setbacks due to Sandy," he said.

According to DOL, hospitality and tourism is a huge industry cluster, with one in four New Jerseyans employed in the sector. And it was hit hard by Sandy, with the impact extending from the Shore to inlands areas, including golf courses and campgrounds: "They all had to deal with a cleanup and trying to hire people, and make sure they are up and running."

In 2011 the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development launched the first six talent networks to bring employers, educators and workforce experts together to strengthen the workforce in six targeted industries: advanced manufacturing, financial services, health care, life sciences, technology and entrepreneurship, and transportation and logistics. The talent networks are based at nonprofits and universities that applied for the program based on their industry expertise. For example, the life sciences talent network is part of BioNJ, the state's biotech trade group, while the technology and entrepreneurship talent network is hosted by the New Jersey Technology Council.

The role of the talent networks is to identify skills gaps and design educational and training programs to meet employer needs, according to the DOL, which said it targets talent networks at industry sectors likely to yield higher-than-average jobs growth in New Jersey.

Both Stockton and FDU were selected to run the Talent Network because of the extensive programs they offer students in hospitality and tourism management.

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