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Talent component key to logistics supply chain

Cedar Knolls-based New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program and the state Labor Department have partnered to identify talent recruiting pools for the state’s $58 billion transportation, logistics and distribution industry.

Cedar Knolls-based New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program and the state Labor Department have partnered to identify talent recruiting pools for the state’s $58 billion transportation, logistics and distribution industry.

Said NJMEP’ Eric Aerts, director of the resulting TLD Talent Network: “Together, we can suggest high-quality public workforce investments and expand the number of New Jersey residents with industry-valued credentials or degrees.”

TLD hiring covers a lot, as it encompasses the personnel need in the planning, management and movement of people, materials and goods by road, pipeline, air, rail and water.

“You also have to consider the professional support services that are related to TLD, including transportation infrastructure planning and management, logistics and other services,” Aerts said. “Reinforcing the talent pipeline now is particularly important, since so many baby boomers are retiring. To some degree, it’s a seller’s market out there, with New Jersey private sector wage for TLD employees averaging $72,569.”

He added: “We will work with employers to identify critical skills gaps. But we’re going beyond that to identify trends and ask why we have these skill gaps. We’re also identifying partners and working with educational institutions to identify courses they can offer that will provide transferable skills and help individuals to establish or re-establish their career paths.”

That kind of mission also aligns with the state’s “65 by ’25”initiative, according to Robert Salamone, NJMEP’s director of vertical engagements.

“The goal of New Jersey’s “65 by ’25” program is to raise the percentage of New Jersey residents who have an industry-valued credential or degree from the current 50 percent up to 65 percent by 2025,” Salamone said. “Our activities will help to identify the kinds of skills these individuals need and where they can go for training. Our partnership with the state’s [Advanced Manufacturing] Talent Network enables us to help direct individuals to Talent Development Centers – Rowan College, Camden Community College and others, which have the funding to help finance their training.”

Challenges ahead

New Jersey, like many other states, faces some critical infrastructure-repair challenges that threaten its ability to effectively compete in the TLD segment. NJMEP is not involved in directly addressing those issues but notes that the intangible ones his organization does address — like skills — are also important.

“As part of our efforts to address this, we’re tasked with hosting and attending targeted industry partnership events,” Aerts said. “These are an opportunity to engage with employers and educational-training partners to focus and coordinate our efforts.”

As the TLD and Advanced Manufacturing Talent Network, NJMEP reps speak with trucking, warehousing, distribution, manufacturing and supply chain providers and other companies, helping them to identify and solve issues, such as training and certifying their staff in a variety of process, quality and managerial fields.

NJMEP is currently working on a project with a company in South Jersey that distributes electrical and lighting products used by businesses and households. “We are assisting them to optimize their freight costs,” Aerts said.

Based on audits performed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NJMEP has worked with hundreds of companies across industries, including manufacturing, STEM and TLD companies. Since 2000, it has assisted in achieving more than $368 million in workplace savings while advising on more than $500 million of capital investments that have helped spur more than 28,000 jobs.

About a year ago, NJMEP also began delivering its message to state legislators.

Fast facts about TLD

The transportation, logistics & distribution industry sector in New Jersey is two-thirds comprised of distribution & logistics workers and one third by those employed in transportation.

Private sector TLD jobs reached a high of 389,521 in 2007, but the 2007 to 2009 recession threw it for a loop: In 2010, sector employment in New Jersey hit a low of 354,616 in 2010 before rebounding to 382,228 workers by 2016.

Middlesex, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris and Union counties account for 61% of New Jersey’s TLD jobs. Other areas with substantial concentrations of TLD businesses include Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties.

Souce: New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development

“We helped to establish a manufacturing legislative caucus, which includes more than 20 elected officials from across the state works together with business owners, to identify key concerns of the manufacturing community and to strategize ways to address these concerns in order to make us more competitive and prosperous,” Aerts said.

He noted that TLD issues are integrally related to manufacturing and may also be raised at the gatherings.

“The second set of annual State of the State meetings, which were instrumental in the creation of the caucus, are scheduled for the first week of April,” Aerts said.

Meanwhile, NJMEP will continue to broadcast its message.

“There’s a clear need to help prepare the next generation of transportation, logistics and distribution leaders,” he said. “This segment offers robust career opportunities and we want young people to realize that TLD is a flourishing and forward-thinking industry.”