In an effort to bolster career and technical education with the aim of future workforce development, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association announced a new partnership Thursday with the state's 21 county vocational schools.
Dubbed the New Jersey Employer Coalition for Technical Education, the NJBIA partnership with the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools (NJCCVTS) will look to promote and expand county vocational schools and their programs while at the same time engaging employers to participate.
The coalition features more than 120 members from the state's business and academic communities, as well as from labor unions and trade associations.
In an announcement held at the Statehouse in Trenton, NJBIA president Phil Kirschner said the coalition will work to ensure that vocational school graduates will be ready to enter the workplace upon graduation and "fill the jobs that are actually available."
Currently, more than 32,000 high school students and more than 5,000 adults attend New Jersey's county vocational schools.
"We must align our education policies with workforce needs to create a pipeline of qualified young adults with the academic, technical and work readiness skills that employers need," Kirschner said.
Judy Savage, executive director for the NJCCTVS, said that looking toward the future, vocational and technical school education makes sense because it's "learning that works" and engages students.
"Perceptions of career and technical education programs have changed," Savage said. "Students, parents and employers recognize that completing a career program along with academic preparation gives students a jump-start on college and career success."
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) joined Kirschner and Savage Thursday in applauding the launch of the coalition.
"While many focus on college and do not think about a technical career, we must make it clear that there are also many well-paying careers that can be launched with an industry credential or an associate's degree," Prieto said. "As our economy begins to grow again, employers will look to our county vocational-technical schools to meet this need, and we need to make sure our students are ready to go."
Sweeney said improving career and technical education is vital because it addresses both education reform and economic growth.
"Many of our county vocational-technical schools are among the best high schools in the state," Sweeney said. "Students engaged in relevant, career-focused learning demonstrate high achievement, and their technical knowledge, work-based experiences and drive to succeed will help keep the state's economy strong."
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