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NJMEP, nonprofit combine to prepare next-gen workforce

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Melvin Lewis, left, and William Pepe work on a lathe as instructor Frank Staff observes in an advanced manufacturing class at Burlington County Institute of Technology in Medford.
Melvin Lewis, left, and William Pepe work on a lathe as instructor Frank Staff observes in an advanced manufacturing class at Burlington County Institute of Technology in Medford. - ()

It doesn't help manufacturers' recruiting efforts that their prospects believe — wrongly, in most cases — that the positions they seek to fill are low-paying.

New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program CEO John Kennedy said New Jersey manufacturing jobs pay an average annual salary of $90,000.

Yet, “even the college-educated people do not consider manufacturing,” Kennedy said.

“We have to provide pathways to young people,” he said. “All learning is great, but it will not pay your rent.”

To forge those paths for the next generation of manufacturing employees, NJMEP is partners with the Manufacturing Skills Standard Council, a nonprofit organization that trains and certifies the foundational technical competencies for front-line workers for jobs in advanced manufacturing and logistics.

Advanced manufacturing uses automation, sensing and other digital technologies to increase precision and efficiency. The council offers courses on foundational education in entry-level logistics and manufacturing to recent high school graduates and others, delivering certification training and testing services through community colleges and secondary schools.

“MSSC’s front-line certifications are most appropriate for production and assembly jobs in manufacturing and material handling/distribution jobs in distribution centers and warehouses,” MSSC Chairman and CEO Leo Reddy said. “All those jobs are making increasing use of advanced technologies, which require higher skills. This is why MSSC reviews its standards and updates its curriculum and testing annually.”

Additionally, MSSC brings manufacturers into schools, takes students to manufacturing plants and offers scholarships for council training and testing. It also offers teachers summer externships at companies and paid summer internships for students.

Kyle Deitrich uses a caliper for measurements in an advanced manufacturing class at Burlington County Institute of Technology in Medford.
Kyle Deitrich uses a caliper for measurements in an advanced manufacturing class at Burlington County Institute of Technology in Medford. - ()

The council has contracted with tech-education equipment provider Allegheny Educational Systems to be its exclusive representative in New Jersey for MSSC’s Certification Plus Skill Boss program, created by Amatrol Inc. The program, which costs less than $20,000, represents an affordable option for high schools that can’t afford expensive tech training centers, Reddy said.

“You have a pathway to a career, not a job,” Kennedy said. “Your goal should be a career. We have tremendous young people in Trenton and Newark, but we are not giving them direction and [instead] telling them that college is your only chance. That is wrong.”

Leah Arter, business development administrator at the Rowan College at Burlington County Workforce Development Institute, works with NJMEP to provide accelerated manufacturing training. She met with NJMEP representatives earlier this month to discuss how to reach displaced workers, military veterans and students.

“We do a lot of recruitment and marketing of our programs,” Arter said. “There is a lot of opportunity in advanced manufacturing and technology. There is a misunderstanding of how clean manufacturing has become. We provide our students tours of Lockheed Martin to see manufacturing and for our employers to talk with our students to match our classes with relevant employers and to hear their career paths.”

Rowan also connects with the Workforce Development Institute, Burlington County Workforce Development Center and the Institute for Technology to develop training programs.

“We look at our offerings and align them better with industry,” Arter said. “Our students gain credentials through these programs.”

The Rowan College at Burlington County Workforce Development Institute has developed advanced manufacturing programs with 100 businesses. Students gain credentials that are used nationally. The college offers classes in a machinists program for high school students during the day and for displaced workers and military veterans in the evening.

“We have an emerging need,” Arter said. “Each industry sector is addressing how to handle future needs. It will take collaboration across the board to be involved in the solution.”

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David Hutter

David Hutter


David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at dhutter@njbiz.com.

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