New Jersey needs more workers with voc-tech training

 New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A new bipartisan legislative panel will look into addressing a shortage of middle-skilled workers in New Jersey.

Melanie Willoughby with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said 80 percent of manufacturers in the nation have a serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled production positions.

“This is not where we want to be with the manufacturing industry in New Jersey that is worth over $44 billion, paying an average salary of $90,450 without a BA.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney wants to put a bond act on next year’s ballot that would provide hundreds of millions of dollars to expand and equip New Jersey’s vocational-technical schools.

“Not everyone is meant to go to college and there’s nothing wrong with having a trade. We want to make sure that our vocational schools are equipped to work with businesses for the future to make sure that they have the employees that they want.”

Judy Savage with the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools said thousands of students are turned away from crowded vo-tech schools. She said the proposed bond act would help more students prepare for a career without incurring loads of college debt.

“We have students who graduate from high school and go on to college without a clear plan. It’s a problem. Too many students don’t complete a degree. They end up saddled with debt, and they are no closer to getting a well-paying job than they were when they started.”

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