The bipartisan Manufacturing in Higher Education Act cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on June 6.
Co-sponsored by state Sens. Steven Oroho, R-24th District, and Linda Greenstein, D-14th District, Senate Bill 659 would help prepare more students for manufacturing careers, providing more skilled employees for the expanding industry with the establishment of a manufacturing career pathway in the state’s county colleges and vocational schools.
“This bill will help introduce a new generation of workers to promising career opportunities in manufacturing,” said Oroho. “Manufacturing has made a comeback in New Jersey and businesses are having a difficult time finding qualified candidates to fill jobs. Manufacturing businesses in the state are plagued by a shortage of qualified, ready-to-work candidates. Without access to capable workers, manufacturing companies that are ready to increase volume and expand are caught in a holding pattern.”
Under the legislation, the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development – in consultation with the Secretary of Higher Education, the Commissioner of Education, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the New Jersey Council of County Vocational Schools, and representatives of the business community – would support the implementation of the manufacturing career pathway.
Offered through the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities Initiative operated by the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce Development, the plan would include instruction in traditional and advanced manufacturing processes and methods of production.
The last few years have underscored how critical it is to have a strong, New Jersey-based manufacturing industry. I am thrilled this legislation passed through committee with bipartisan support,” said Greenstein. “There are several exciting aspects of the ‘Manufacturing in Higher Education Act’ that will positively impact the talent pool of college students pursuing technical skills and manufacturing careers. The passage of this bill would provide a viable path forward, filling skills gaps for manufacturing employers and expanding these kinds of opportunities in our state.”
A $10 million Higher Education Manufacturing Grant Program would be established as part of the bill. That funding would be used at public higher education institutions to create or expand curriculum in manufacturing, manufacturing engineering or advanced manufacturing.
“Manufacturing isn’t viewed prominently as a career option by many young people growing up in New Jersey,” said Oroho. “They may be missing out on stable, potentially lucrative, long-term careers in a growing field. This program will help change lives for those who capitalize on the training and the available jobs.”