U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is promoting his proposals to boost the nation's economy by getting long-term unemployed individuals back to work through private-public job-training partnerships.
Menendez (D-NJ) has proposed $1 billion in federal funding for a competitive tax credit to encourage the partnerships between businesses and colleges.
"Obviously, a growing economy is going to be the biggest driver of getting people back to work, but even in this economy, as it is recovering, I hear from New Jersey businesses: 'Senator, I have a series of jobs that I have available right now, but I don't have the people with the right skills to meet those jobs," he said. "Well, we need to be able to give them New Jerseyans who will be trained at great institutions like this."
The Gabriel E. Danch C.I.M. (Computer Integrated Manufacturing) Center on Camden County College's Blackwood campus served as an appropriate backdrop for Menendez's press conference. The college has entered a number of partnerships with private industry and state government to provide job-training opportunities over the past five years.
"As we all know, a lot of our manufacturing has gone overseas, and now it is coming back," Melvin Roberts, dean of the college's Division of Business, Computer and Technical Studies, said. "We need to re-train and freshen up and ready new workers for these manufacturing enterprises that are coming back."
Camden County College President Raymond Yannuzzi noted during the press conference that business and industry partnerships are "a major component of our educational mission, and we work with many government agencies and corporate organizations to make these training programs possible."
Yannuzzi believes the business partnerships provide prospective students with the incentive sometimes necessary to get them back in the classroom to learn new skills.
"If they know that there's a job waiting, they have more incentive to do well in the program," he said. "This is not an easy program. When people say we have all of these jobs that cannot be filled and we have all these unemployed people, remember two things: It's not that easy. They have to commit to a significant amount of study. They have to do a little bit of science, a little bit of engineering. ... And, it's not a dirty job, but it's a little dangerous."
There were an estimated 12.8 million unemployed Americans in January, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Of those roughly 13 million people, nearly 33 percent have been out of work for more than a year, Menendez said.
"For millions of Americans, the unemployment crisis is not simply an abstract economic statistic. It's about putting food on the table, keeping a place to call home, and realizing the hopes and dreams and aspirations of your family," Menendez said. "But when those who lost their jobs went looking for new work, many found that it wasn't just their job that had been eliminated, but their entire industry was eliminated."
In addition to promoting $1 billion in tax incentives to foster partnerships between businesses and colleges, Menendez is proposing a tax credit of up to $3,000 for any American business willing to train a long-term unemployed individual.
Camden County College already partners with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, New Jersey Biotechnology Workforce Investment Initiative, New Jersey Utilities Association Workforce Initiative, and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to provide training to workers of various skill and education levels.
West-Ward Pharmaceuticals is one of more than 100 companies that has benefited from the college's training programs. It has sent more than 300 employees to the school for basic-skills and computer training since 2008, Pugliese said.
"The production workers often are over-looked when it comes to training. We'll send the employees who are in other positions for training," Barbara Pugliese, manager of training development at West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, which employs a total of 1,100 people at its Cherry Hill and Eatontown facilities, said. "However, those folks working on the line, who probably feel left out when it comes to training—what an opportunity it was for them to be pulled from the line and be able to partake in this training."