Reigniting NJ’s manufacturing engine

One sector of our economy that has enormous potential to create jobs and accelerate our recovery is the manufacturing industry. It has always been the embodiment of that American ideal that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can provide for your family today and for their brighter future tomorrow. That is the personification of the American dream.

For the last few months, I have been working on a series of proposals that seeks to jump-start the manufacturing industry in our state. Here’s why. According to a 2012 Manpower Group Study, machine operators and engineers are among the top 10 jobs that U.S. employers have trouble filling. These positions are critically important to our manufacturing industry. Additionally, workers in manufacturing jobs earn 22 percent more in annual pay and benefits than the average worker in other industries, according to research authored by the National Association of Manufacturers. Specifically in New Jersey, this translates into compensation that is more than $40,000 higher than other non-farm employers in the state.

Every new manufacturing job we create will add another 1.6 jobs to the local service economy, and for every dollar in manufacturing sales, another $1.34 is added to the economy. In this vein, investments in manufacturing have a stronger impact than investments in any other economic sector in growing our state’s economy. We need a workforce ready and able to accept these positions. By developing jobs in this area, we will be able to narrow the growing income inequality gap that has plagued our state and nation over the last 30 years. So how do we reinvigorate this industry?

We begin by focusing on three core principles: (1) Creating educational pathways to develop the workforce the industry needs; (2) creating access to capital for manufacturers to grow their operations and employment opportunities; and (3) creating the conditions necessary, including a strategy for growth, for New Jersey’s manufacturing industry.

The first proposal would direct the state Employment and Training Commission to create an annual report to assess projected workforce needs, the projected number of people receiving the credentials necessary for those positions, the gaps that are not met by current available education/training programs, as well as any private or public institution that could address those gaps through new programs or expansion of existing programs. New Jersey institutions of higher education would be encouraged to use the report to plan their offered courses of study.

The second would require community colleges and vocational technical schools, in conjunction with various state departments, to design a career pathway for the skills needed for employment in New Jersey’s manufacturing sector.

The third would direct community colleges, vocational high schools, the Department of Education and local workforce development programs to implement a pilot program of 20 career and technical education certificate programs that combine basic education in information and math literacy with career and technical education. The fourth would create a yearly $2 million competitive grant program among colleges and universities to create “manufacturing university” designations aimed at revamping engineering programs to focus on manufacturing, engineering and curricula specifically related to targeted industries.

The fifth would develop manufacturing reinvestment accounts to allow manufacturers with 50 or fewer employees to establish an interest-bearing, tax-deferred account designed to help small companies fund capital investments and workforce training.

The sixth would create a tax credit of up to 15 percent for expenses incurred by manufacturing businesses who in-source — relocate a business from outside the United States to New Jersey.

The seventh would re-establish a school-aid program to create a pathway for out-of-school youths to enter a career and technical education program that includes high school diploma completion using existing technical school facilities.

By adopting policies that allow our state to tap into the enormous potential of the manufacturing industry, we will position New Jersey at the epicenter of the rebirth of manufacturing in our nation.

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