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The New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities: Aligning Education to Build an Innovative Workforce

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11/16/22

New Jersey’s Community Colleges, in partnership with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, have launched an unprecedented statewide education and training pathways initiative across all education sectors and connected to industry that will strengthen the state’s workforce for community members, businesses, and the economy for years to come. 

This initiative, New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities: Aligning Education to Build an Innovative Workforce, brings together employers, industry associations, labor unions, education institutions, and workforce development partners to provide students, adult learners, and workers with the education and career pathways they need to find new careers to earn competitive wages, and to ensure that employers have access to a highly skilled workforce to meet critical labor market needs. The Pathways Initiative has created a statewide education ecosystem connected to industry and has over 1,200 education and industry partners since it started in December 2021. 

This new statewide collaborative approach to education and workforce training innovation is inclusive, timely, and sustainable. Supported by a $8.5 million investment from Governor Murphy and the Legislature, the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities initiative: 

  1. unites industry and education experts to break down silos for true collaboration, 
  2. creates education and career pathways for residents in the four fastest-growing industries in New Jersey, 
  3. positions New Jersey to build a skilled workforce that can adapt to the changing economy, and
  4. ensures a more resilient, equitable, and fairer economy for all New Jerseyans.

The Pathways Initiative, having the primary mission to align education to build an innovative workforce, is comprised of four Industry Collaboratives and 10 Centers of Workforce Innovation. 

The Industry Collaboratives are statewide all-inclusive groups of industry leaders and educational partners focused on the labor market needs of four key industries to the state’s economy: Health Services, Infrastructure and Energy, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, and Technology and Innovation. These Industry Collaboratives build a talent ecosystem based on collaboration and information to expand opportunities for economic mobility and they drive economic growth. They do so by:

convening industry leadership teams consisting of the highest levels of employers, labor associations, and unions to provide information on the real-world, real-time, changing workforce needs of each industry and to identify workforce challenges and solutions. These teams meet quarterly. 

creating a broad and inclusive statewide education ecosystem including community colleges, vocational-technical schools, workforce development boards, four-year colleges and universities, labor unions, and other training providers in each industry, and

hosting monthly statewide convenings of education ecosystem partners and industry partners to share labor market intelligence, information on pathways partnerships across the state, and expert speakers on issues important to aligning education to build an innovative workforce.

The 10 Centers of Workforce Innovation (Centers) are smaller work groups of cross education sector partners that build connected education pathways from high schools to community colleges to four-year colleges and universities, and include workforce development training as well as academic education. The Centers build connected education pathways that ensure that along one’s journey to credential and degree attainment in New Jersey there are multiple on-ramps and off-ramps and no dead-ends for students, adult learners, and workers when it comes to any training and education they invest their time. 

Each Center is focused on an occupational area within the four Industry Collaboratives and aligns curriculum across statewide educational partners to serve the learning lifespan of students, adult learners, and workers. 

The technical work of the education partners of the Centers involves developing new curriculum and strengthening existing education and workforce training aligned with the needs of employers that spans the education continuum from high school, to community college (credit and non-credit), to four-year colleges and universities, promoting the movement of students along pathways. The Centers share curriculum widely with other education institutions across the state and provide professional development for faculty and instructors so these curricula may be delivered almost everywhere in New Jersey. 

The work of the Industry Collaboratives and Centers of Workforce Innovation has met overwhelming enthusiasm by industry and education partners across the state. The New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities is expected to change how the state’s workforce is educated and trained to meet the ever-changing needs of industry. Now, on a statewide basis, education and industry are connected to benefit students, adult learners, workers, and businesses to achieve boundless economic mobility and growth as we all meet the unpredictable and exciting future ahead. Working with Jersey Water Works and its members, the initiative provides the mechanism for industry and academia to build pathways that will create awareness of water related occupations, transparency in mobility of career growth, and connected pathways facilitating the pipeline of a skilled workforce. For more information or to become a partner in the Pathways initiative, go to www.njpathways.org.

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