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Higher education, business community: 'Vibrant connections'

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New Jersey college officials touted the benefits of building relationships between Somerset County’s businesses and the schools’ graduates at an event hosted by the Somerset County Business Partnership on Wednesday.

The “Making Vibrant Connections” forum, held at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, featured representatives from Raritan Valley Community College, Rutgers University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Princeton University.  Gail Tenen Spak, NJIT associate vice president of continuing and distance education, said her office helps students navigate with corporate workforce issues.

“It could help many of the people sitting in this room,” Spak said. “There are many trends happening in talent development.”

Spak said the main pathways center on NJIT graduates doing apprenticeships and gaining certification specific to industries. New Jersey has a goal that 65 percent of its residents attain a degree, industry credential or non-credit certification by the year 2025.

“Our workers do not have enough data to figure out what is the best career for them,” Spak said. “Under the Christie administration and continuing under the Murphy administration, there are talent networks in construction and utilities.

“We are co-partnering with Raritan Valley Community College,” she said. “They want to hear from your companies. We have been stewards of five of these talent networks.”

Coleen Burrus, leader of corporate engagement and foundation relations at Princeton University, said key elements for a strong economy include collaboration between government, colleges and businesses.

“We refer to this as a triple helix,” Burrus said. “At this point in time in New Jersey, we are experiencing a strong interest for these parties to work together. I want to acknowledge the business organizations who have made this possible.”

Michael McDonough, president of Raritan Valley Community College, said employers want employees who have essential life skills, such as the ability to collaborate, punctuality, asking questions and advocating for oneself.

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