The nonprofit New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program hosted speakers who touted workforce development and apprenticeships at a state-of-the-state of manufacturing event Friday at County College of Morris.
County College of Morris President Anthony Iacono said the institution is proud of its partnership with NJMEP.
“Our work is to help others to do their work better,” Iacono said. “We love manufacturing and that is why we are here to support manufacturing.”
The County College of Morris held a groundbreaking ceremony in January to mark the upcoming start of construction of an $11 million Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Center.
The building is being funded by the State of New Jersey, Morris County and private donors. It is scheduled to open in spring 2020.
NJMEP assesses, consults, and provides training to companies. NJMEP is also lobbying the government on behalf of the manufacturing industry.
“We have a growing voice,” NJMEP CEO John Kennedy said. “We have 11,000 employers with 380,000 employees but we have no real leverage and that is on us.”
To underscore his point, Kennedy recalled seeing hundreds of people travel to Trenton to advocate on behalf of education issues before New Jersey lawmakers. Yet only two manufacturing representatives advocated on that same day, Kennedy said.
Your industry is vital to the success of our state. Unfortunately, last month we reported drops in unemployment in seven of nine sectors but manufacturing was not one of those sectors.
“People do not understand that if you own a business, and do not sell anything, you do not own a business anymore,” Kennedy said.
Tony Russo, president of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, said his organization represents many sectors of the economy including manufacturers. He recalled a conversation with a lawmaker who explained that when New Jersey manufacturers create a product the economy improves.
“If it was not for advocacy efforts, Gov. Murphy would have wanted $15 per hour right now,” Russo said, referring to the minimum wage new law that will raise New Jersey’s minimum wage incrementally to $15 per hour by 2024.
“We think [Murphy’s proposed] millionaire’s tax is a tax on small businesses,” Russo said.
New Jersey Department of Labor Commissioner Rob Angelo-Asaro said he is proud of what the state is doing to help manufacturers.
“We have had five years of growth in manufacturing in New Jersey,” he said. “Your industry is vital to the success of our state. Unfortunately, last month we reported drops in unemployment in seven of nine sectors but manufacturing was not one of those sectors.”
“The department of labor is investing money in apprenticeships because it works,” Angelo-Asaro added.
“There is no one-size-fits-all program to success,” he said. “For some it is college; for others it is apprenticeships.”
Donald Sebastian, president and CEO of the New Jersey Innovation Institute, credited the New Jersey manufacturing sector with leading the recovery from the 2008 economic collapse. The New Jersey Innovation Institute is a corporation of the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Yet New Jersey is experiencing a shortfall in qualified people who are experts in the skills of manufacturing, Sebastian said.
“We have created the belief that the only way to success is by being a doctor, a lawyer, or a stock-broker,” Sebastian said.
Sebastian suggested taking parallel pathways and making them intersect.
“I would argue that if you are not in advanced manufacturing, you will not be in business in five years,” Sebastian said.
More from the 2019 NJMEP State of the State of Manufacturing:
- EDA chief: New Jersey innovation economy includes investment in manufacturing
- Manufacturing connections: Reduce over-regulations, lower the cost of doing business
- NJMEP state of the state: Skilled workforce key, but high taxes hurt
- Sweeney delivers keynote at 2019 NJMEP State of the State
- Sherrill: NJMEP produces return on investment of 14.5 to 1
- Manufacturing challenges examined: Minimum wage, attracting skilled employees