Trenton — Phil Murphy today unveiled a multi-pronged proposal to enhance job training and workforce development in New Jersey to ensure all workers have the skills needed to not only compete in the 21st century economy, but also to rebuild the state’s global competitiveness for new businesses and create a fairer economy with opportunity for all residents.
Murphy announced the plan at the newly opened Trenton Hall on the James Kersey Campus of Mercer County Community College. He was joined at the announcement by United States Senator Cory Booker, a strong advocate for enhanced workplace training.
“To build the new economy we envision — strong in innovation and infrastructure — we will need a workforce ready for the challenge and policies in place to unite students, workers, and businesses under one roof,” said Murphy. “For many residents, a focused and purposeful training program will prepare them for good-paying work. New Jersey needs to be put on an entirely new economic course, one that reflects our values — diverse, inclusive, innovative, and backed by the best-educated, best-skilled workforce that grows and strengthens our middle class.”
“Phil Murphy has seen what works and has laid out a comprehensive vision to grow New Jersey’s economy and create jobs,” said Booker. “He knows that education and training are the keys to making our economy grow and ensuring equal opportunity for everyone.”
Murphy’s proposal contrasts with the economic failures of Governor Chris Christie and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, which has left New Jersey with one of the nation’s highest rates of long-term unemployed, especially for older workers. From 2015 to 2016, state investment in workforce development programs decreased. Average household incomes remain below levels from 2009.
Under the program, Murphy would:
Work towards free community college. Phil Murphy would work to making New Jersey one of the few states which offers access to free community college both to new high school graduates and older students looking for new skills or new careers. Tennessee, one of the few states with a free community college program, experienced a state cost of $34 million. Murphy estimates that a New Jersey program could cost up to $200 million.
Prepare students for a rapidly changing world by investing in vocational-technical education and launching a “Computer Science for All” initiative to provide every public school student access to coding skills.
Make job training more effective by expanding apprenticeship programs and other on-the-job opportunities which provide alternative pathways to a good career. New Jerseyans currently enroll in apprenticeship programs at a rate 42 percent below the national average.
Make job training inclusive to all residents. This includes programs for individuals with disabilities, and making job training more accessible for ex-offenders through re-entry programs. Murphy also will commit to closing unemployment gaps in fields that have traditionally been underrepresented by women and minorities, including technology and the trades.
Strengthen New Jersey’s key industries, including its clean energy and climate resilience sectors. New Jersey has lost innovative industry sectors to neighboring and competing states like New York and Massachusetts because of their investments in workforce development to attract these highly technical fields — for example, New Jersey has just 15 business accelerator/incubators, while New York boasts 179.
Murphy noted that he saw the impact comprehensive workforce development programs have while serving as United States Ambassador to Germany, which has one of the world’s leading models for using technical education and training as the backbone of a sustainable economy and strong and vibrant middle class.
In 2015, Murphy and his wife, Tammy, co-founded the New Start Career Network in partnership with the Heldrich Center at Rutgers to provide personalized coaching and resources to New Jersey’s long-term unemployed over the age of 45. He noted that today there are more than 2,600 New Start members — many already back and working and countless more preparing to — and 233 volunteer coaches.