Elected officials, industry leaders, and students gathered recently at Ocean County Vocational Technical School (OCVTS) to celebrate a partnership between the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) and OCVTS which will provide free field trips to advanced manufacturing facilities for middle and high school students. The program is designed to educate students about job opportunities in advanced manufacturing while informing them of the skills necessary to pursue a career in the sector.
“Manufacturing is a growing industry here in New Jersey that provides good-paying, stable jobs and it is important that young people understand the opportunities available to them,” said OCVTS Superintendent Karen Homiek. “Partnering with the NJEDA to provide free field trips where students will get the chance to see manufacturing first-hand and talk to current workers face-to-face will show students the range of opportunities available and encourage them to consider a career in manufacturing.”
New Jersey’s manufacturing industry produces more than $31 billion in economic output every year and employs more than 160,000 New Jersey workers. The industry is also one of eight focus sectors identified in Governor Phil Murphy’s economic plan. However, it has faced increasing barriers to growth as an aging workforce and a shortage of young workers shrinks the number of qualified employees available to manufacturing companies.
“It’s especially forward-thinking to include middle grade students in this pilot,” said Linda P. Eno, Ed.D., Assistant Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education’s Division of Academics and Performance. “Using field trips to expose middle school students to career pathways in manufacturing helps them develop an understanding of how academics and work fit together and allows them to envision a future in which they both learn and earn.”
The field trip program is part of the NJEDA’s Advanced Manufacturing Student Outreach Pilot, a series of initiatives developed in coordination with stakeholder input to improve perceptions of the advanced manufacturing industry and expose students to the many career pathways available in the sector. The field trips will provide free opportunities for first-and second-year high school students to tour advanced manufacturing facilities in Ocean County and learn about each facility’s operations. The program prioritizes ensuring students from varied socio-economic backgrounds attend the field trips, especially students from Ocean County’s three opportunity zone municipalities.
“The advanced manufacturing industry provides a wide range of good jobs with long-term career prospects, but in recent years we have had trouble attracting students and young workers,” said Patricia Cubero, General Manager of Aquatherm Industries. “Providing this hands-on learning opportunity is an important way to show students the career options available to them right here in our community and provide the workforce New Jersey’s manufacturing sector needs to grow.”
Under the partnership, the NJEDA will commit funding to cover the costs of the field trips, and OCVTS will organize and conduct the trips. The first trip is scheduled for Friday, June 7 and will consist of visits to three participating manufacturing firms in Jackson, New Jersey. Additional field trips aimed at various age groups are also tentatively planned for Fall 2019.
“One of the pillars of Governor Murphy’s plan for building a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy is investing in people. Preparing our students with the skills and experience they need to take on jobs in high-wage, high-growth industries like advanced manufacturing is critical,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “The field trip program will show students the wide variety of career paths available in this dynamic sector and will help New Jersey’s manufacturers continue to grow.”
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