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Spreading the word about career options in high-skill manufacturing

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Getting the word out to teenagers and their parents that good careers can be found at modern manufacturing facilities in New Jersey will be a key focus of the ManufactureNJ talent network, according to its new director, Raymond Vaccari.

Based at New Jersey Institute of Technology and sponsored by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, ManufactureNJ brings employers, vocational and technical high schools, community colleges, students, and job seekers together to develop a pipeline of new workers for the modern manufacturing floor, which is increasingly a high-tech, clean environment. The talent network was launched in 2011, and this month, Vaccari succeeded Meredith Aronson as director.

The network will convene its second annual ManufactureNJ Industry Week beginning Oct. 4 at NJIT, in Newark, with panel discussions among manufacturing executives, educator and business groups. Then, from Oct. 7 to Oct. 10, there will be programs at the state's vocational schools and community colleges.

On Oct. 4, "we will release our 'road show video' — a 6.5-minute video about manufacturing in New Jersey and what the opportunities are," Vaccari said.ManufactureNJ is partnering with the New Jersey Business & Industry Manufacturers Network to bring the video to middle and high schools, to get students thinking abut a future career in manufacturing.

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Raymond Vaccari, director of ManufactureNJ

"The hope is that manufacturers will go to the schools, show the video and talk about manufacturing in New Jersey," said Vaccari, whose early career included a decade working in wire and cable manufacturing in New Jersey, prior to his 20-year IT career at AT&T. "We are trying to get the word out that there are very good careers in manufacturing — not only for engineers, but entry-level jobs for people who just graduated high school."

Vaccari said a student with math skills and a technical bent might get several months of training, get a manufacturing job, take courses part-time leading to an associate's degree from a community college, then continuing working toward a four-year degree. He said entry-level manufacturing jobs in New Jersey start at about $10 an hour, and salaries rise with experience and training. He cited a manufacturing executive whose skilled mechanics earn more than $100,000 a year.

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ManufactureNJ's mission is to address the shortage of skilled manufacturing workers in New Jersey by helping schools design courses that meet the industry's needs. Two years ago a training initiative was launched by the network, the state labor department, the state Community College Consortium and the NJBIA and since then 56 people have been trained for jobs in high-tech metal manufacturing.

Said Vaccari, "There are a lot of kids that are good technically, good mathematically, who aren't necessarily ready for college but they are ready to start a career in manufacturing — and the jobs are there."

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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