Essex County College President Gail E. Gibson meets regularly with employers to learn what skills they need – so her graduates have a better shot at jobs in the future.
"Oftentimes, there is a mismatch between what we perceive (employers) needs to be and what their needs actually are," Gibson said. "The only way we can find out that information is for us to actually have a conversation and go directly to them." She partners with retailers, manufacturers, health care, finance and security firms, among others.
ECC has campuses in Newark and West Caldwell, and between students working for a two-year associate's degree and those taking short-term courses to learn a new job skill, Gibson estimated that the college reaches about 25,000 households.
Gibson said employers tell her they have jobs to fill in science, engineering and health; the Newark campus is near the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers, and her students often transfer to those universities to earn four-year degrees. ECC has received federal grants to train students in cyber security and logistics, and supply chain management.
To reach students who can't get to campus, Gibson brings courses out to the community. Next fall a teachers' assistant course will be offered at a childcare center, giving parents a chance to get the credentials they need to work at the center.
"We can't always expect students to come here, so we have to go where they are," she said, especially when a lot of her students are single parents who need skills to get a better job to provide for the children. "We need to provide training so that jobs don't go overseas."
Gibson serves on the board of the Newark Alliance, a nonprofit that seeks to spur economic development in the city. And that's where she learned about a shortage of EMT workers.
"When I got back to my office I shot an email to my continuing education department and said 'hey what are we doing about EMT?' We really have to get out and talk to the employers," she said.
Gibson and 32 other professional women will be honored May 8 by Executive Women of New Jersey at its annual gala at the Hilton East Brunswick. The keynote speaker is real estate investor Barbara Corcoran, who appears on the TV show "Shark Tank" where entrepreneurs pitch their new business ideas to a panel of potential investors. John Strangfeld, chief executive of Prudential Financial, is the event's honorary chair.
Gibson said her message to other executive women is to not "be afraid of the challenges. In these economic times we are all trying to be out there on the forefront and help improve the quality of life for so many others. So you have to stay the course."
Founded in 1980, Executive Women of New Jersey is a leading senior-level executive women's network. It supports and showcases the advancement of women to top leadership positions, promotes gender diversity in the boardroom and funds post graduate scholarships.
Proceeds from the annual awards dinner fund scholarships for women enrolled in graduate programs. To date, it has provided more than $1.2 million to more than 400 women.
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