More than $3 million in grant funding was announced for Raritan Valley Community College in Somerset County over a recent two-day span that will help boost the school’s workforce development efforts.
The Somerset County Board of Commissioners last week said $3 million in American Rescue Plan funds would be allocated to expand training so that students can find next-generation technological employment. The day before, RVCC said it was awarded a $75,000 grant from the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals to create a program focused on exploring careers in the biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry.
According to the Board of Commissioners, the ARP funding will help the school continue its leadership in advanced manufacturing in addition to supporting high-tech industries in the county. The allocation will expand the Workforce Training Center on the Branchburg campus from 44,000 square feet to 66,000 square feet and establish the state’s first community college clean room.
The WTC work will also add classrooms, electric vehicle automotive and mechatronics space, and double its advanced manufacturing programs, which support area high school students. More space also means more room to expand degree programs and credentials for all RVCC students – ranging from those high school students to traditional and non-traditional college age students, under- and unemployed adults, career changers, and underrepresented communities, the Board of Commissioners said.
“Somerset County’s goal is to partner with RVCC to provide our residents with the training and skills to secure good-paying jobs in growing industries while helping current employers confidently develop next-generation services and manufacturing,” Commissioner Deputy Director Doug Singleterry said in a statement. “This virtuous circle will support a growing economic environment and encourage even more businesses and highly skilled workers to call Somerset County home.”
According to the Board, the funding comes as a result of that work already taking root. Over the past five years, the school has built relationships with employers to identify workforce requirements (for now and for the future) and, as a result, developed certification and degree programs to meet those needs. That success prompted RVCC to approach Somerset County with a proposal to expand the WTC.
“Somerset County’s support for RVCC’s students and the Workforce Training Center is extraordinary, and we are excited to align these efforts with the county’s economic development vision,” RVCC President Michael McDonough said at a recent Board of Commissioners meeting. “Your generosity will allow us to build a best-in-class center for biomanufacturing right here at RVCC to support the growing need for aseptic manufacturing vital to vaccine, medicine, and medical device development.”
Launched in 2021, Somerset County’s Office of Planning, Policy and Economic Development has focused on growing local life sciences manufacturing in the region. Over the past year, more than 700,000 square feet of expansion has been planned to support thousands of jobs, according to the Board — many positions that will require the specific training RVCC’s programs will provide.
The $75,000 funding from NIIMBL, of which the school is one of just three locations nationwide to receive, will establish a weeklong summer immersion program at RVCC.
The residential 2023 NIIMBL Summer eXperience, which runs from June 10-16, is designed to build self-confidence in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, to motivate students to pursue careers in biomanufacturing or life sciences, and to provide networking with industry professionals.
The program will serve African-American/Black, Latinx and Native American college students. RVCC said there is no cost to participate and that room and board are provided in addition to transportation for off-campus experiences.
Combining industry tours, networking events and one-on-one coaching, the effort aims to help students understand how to navigate corporate culture as well as develop a vision and confidence in their career or education goals.
The 2023 NIIMBL Summer eXperience is also available at Albany College in New York and BioKansas in the Kansas/Missouri region. According to RVCC, the project was developed with an award from NIIMBL and financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The deadline to register for the summer experience is Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. Current college freshmen and sophomores attending two-year or four-year institutions and majoring in STEM subjects are eligible. Accepted participants will also receive a $500 stipend.
Though the funding announcements came separately their goals are aligned.
“Somerset County and RVCC are committed to ensuring that every resident has the educational and training opportunities to get the good jobs of the future, and that employers know that they will find the best workforce in the world right here in Somerset County,” Singleterry said.o