By Briana Vannozzi
Two years ago, mechanical repair shop owner Estevan Maas found himself in uncharted territory.
“I became unemployed in the summer of 2015. I have a wife, two daughters, it was a scary prospect,” he said.
But his turnaround is being touted a success, thanks to a partnership between Union County Community College and local businesses to train and recruit students and creating a pipeline to jobs.
“Nationwide nearly seven million Americans are actively looking for work. Meanwhile, employers are looking to fill over 5.5 million jobs that exist in the marketplace as we speak. The problem is, as Bob will tell you, employers are struggling to find workers with the right skills,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
Enter new legislation, unveiled today by Menendez at the college’s workforce center. It’ll expand job training partnerships through a billion dollar competitive tax credit program.
“To encourage businesses and community colleges to form more partnerships that equip workers with today’s in demand skills.
The Better Education and Skills Training, or BEST for America’s Workforce Act, will go to applicants in partnerships that are most likely to secure employment for workers completing programs.
Businesses like Bob Tarantino’s. He’s the founder of New Jersey Precision Technologies. His high tech contract manufacturing company has already hired two UCC grads.
“New Jersey and most states have lost many of the machine shop training programs at the high school level and most manufacturing companies cannot find skilled workers. It’s a serious problem,” Tarantino said.
“When I saw this opportunity it’s like, ‘OK, here’s something different but tangentially related to what I had done.’ To get into that program and learn the basic skills was critical,” Maas said.
According to the Department of Labor, for every one manufacturing job filled it creates 1.4 additional jobs. That number is even higher for high tech manufacturing. The problem as Menendez puts it: many of the jobs being offered in 2017 don’t look like the jobs we lost during the great recession.
“The bill also includes a tax credit of up to $4,000 for firms that pay to train and hire long-term unemployed individuals,” Menendez said.
Menendez also toured the nearby Kearny Point campus, a co-working space for small businesses, startups and professionals. He says applicants with programs tailored to provide skill sets that meet the strongest market demands will also be favored.
Today also marks the start of a 21 county tour by Menendez where he’ll visit local businesses, speak with entrepreneurs, legislators and industry leaders to build these so-called bridges to jobs.