New Jersey's deep reservoir of worker talent puts it at the head of the class for a work-ready labor pool and underscores its economic development mantra of "Highly educated, perfectly located."
The Garden State has nearly 60 universities, colleges and technical schools. And with 1.7 million college graduates, New Jersey ranks in the top 10 in workforce education, and in the top five for quality of education.
New Jersey also typically ranks in the top three for highest dollar investment per student in the United States, while state grants, incentives and workforce training programs are readily available for new and expanding businesses. CNBC ranked the state No. 2 in education on its Top States for Business list in 2011.
The state awarded more than $18 million in customized grants from July 2011 through June 2012 to 500 companies for employee training, says Hal Wirths, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Training was given to 50,000 employees, including 10,000 new hires.
"All that customized training gave workforces the skills to keep them employed, make them marketable, and help their employers maintain a competitive edge,” Wirths says.
Also assisting the overall workforce effort is a new Jobs4Jersey.com website, established by the state to provide job seekers and employers with a single concentrated search engine.
“A total of 100,000 people floated their resumes through the site during the summer of 2012, and employers posted a weekly average of 121,000 jobs available in New Jersey,” Wirths says. “That number increases to about 284,000 total jobs when you include available employment opportunities within a 50-mile radius of the state.”
Wirths says by clicking OnRamp within the Jobs4Jersey.com site, job seekers can upload and create detailed resumes that will be posted for potential employers. OnRamp uses artificial intelligence to match job seekers with employers based on skills, not just job titles. Job seekers are alerted to opportunities via email, and can update their resumes or create several different resumes that highlight various skills for different jobs. OnRamp is being opened up to the state's employers as well, allowing them use the same dynamic search capabilities to upload their talent needs and find workers New Jersey has been garnering national attention for the site; the Jobs4Jersey.com service is free.
The state also implemented a Talent Networks program that identified six key industry sectors that account for more than 50 percent of all jobs in New Jersey and pay 67 percent of all wages. The six industries are advanced manufacturing, financial services, health care, life sciences, technology and entrepreneurship, and transportation, logistics and distribution.
“The best way to develop our workforce, and to simultaneously boost our state economy, is to train people for the jobs in those particularly successful industry sectors,” Wirths says. “Talent Networks brings together partners from the business community, workforce development and education, and establishes networking groups. Those groups provide meaningful input to education professionals and training providers on the very courses that will specifically train individuals for these six growing fields.”