Programs Aimed at Closing Skills Gap in New Jersey and Wisconsin

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A number of new programs are in the works in New Jersey and Wisconsin aimed at helping job seekers add more skills to their resumes in order to find work in high demand fields, including the manufacturing and health care industries.

A recent study by the state business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) found that 43 percent of employers were having trouble hiring new employees, with more than half of those citing a lack of qualified employees as the reason, the Oshkosh Northwestern reports.

People don’t understand we are still employing (more than) 430,000 people in manufacturing in this state, Jim Morgan, vice president of WMC, told the news agency. "I don’t think Wisconsin survives without (manufacturing). This state was built on it." The state's Wisconsin Workers Win (W3) program is a new initiative aimed at retraining recently unemployed workers through a series of 6-week "boot camps" at manufacturer's worksites.

Manufacturing today is a high-tech process involving highly sophisticated, computer-driven production equipment, Department of Workforce Development spokesman John Dipko noted. He said  that just one-third of Wisconsin’s working adults have training that includes a two-year technical college degree or more.

In New Jersey, employment officials are expanding a training initiative aimed at getting unemployed blue-collar workers back on the job within a few months, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The Jersey Job Club recently extended its training and networking program to include 6 sessions a week that will focus on industries that have been singled out as high-demand fields by the Christie Administration including life sciences, health care, manufacturing, transportation and technology.

They weren’t serving as many folks as we like, said Catherine Starghill, director of workforce field operations for the Division of Labor and Workforce Development. “We saw it as an opportunity to revamp it and expand it and serve a lot more folks.”

At a recent meeting that focused on the worker shortage in the life sciences sector, Vicki Gaddy, director of workforce development for the tradegroup BioNJ, said candidates may have to consider transitioning into a new career field in order to find work.

Job seekers who are looking to transfer into another industry may want to take an online aptitude test to determine if they have the skills necessary to enter a specific field.

Labor officials said they expect to open 23 Job Clubs across New Jersey by September 1 to help fill what they said are hundreds of thousands of job openings across the state. 

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