Addressing a packed room of nearly 300, Raymond Vaccari, director, NJ Advanced Manufacturing Talent Network, welcomed manufacturers, educators, industry associations, Department of Labor representatives and New Jersey state legislators to this year’s Advanced Manufacturing Industry Summit, hosted by NJIT and held on-campus Aug. 23. Vaccari told the audience, “If we are going to help N.J. manufacturers meet their workforce needs, we need to expand education and training programs to develop workers with the proper skill sets.” Those words echoed throughout the full day’s industry summit, as well as the Apprenticeship Accelerator Program, where workforce training and starting apprenticeships was the clarion call. Here are the day’s highlights.

Following opening remarks by Gale Tenen Spak, associate vice president of Continuing Professional Education at NJIT, Dan Brateris, NJIT’s director of experimental learning, unveiled details about NJIT's Makerspace. Aaron Fichtner, commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD), then spoke about expectations of New Jersey’s talent networks and LWD’s focus on the “65 by 25” program to expand the number of New Jersey adults holding industry-valued credentials to 65 percent by 2025.

The agenda also featured Jason Timian, LWD labor market analyst, who gave an overview of New Jersey manufacturing statistics, including the fact that the average salary for manufacturing workers far exceeds the state average for all industries; and Karen Richards, co-director of the Technology Talent Network also hosted by NJIT, who in discussing how technology affects manufacturing, focused on issues like cloud technology and cyber crimes. Vaccari spoke as well, describing how participation in the Targeted Industry Partnerships (TIPs) can help manufacturers with workforce needs; he then presented Business Achievement Awards to Convertech, New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program (NJMEP), Productive Companies and J&S Produce for their contributions to the TIP meetings.

Keynote speaker Al Stimac, president of Metal Essence, Inc. and the Manufacturers Association of Florida, shared his lifelong knowledge and experience on successful apprenticeship programs throughout Florida and within his company. Stimac’s talk centered on how perseverance, collaboration and strategy merge to create a successful advanced manufacturing/engineering and technology workforce. He addressed the need to expand the public-private partnership to develop a talent pipeline that stimulates employee development.

(From left) Aaron Fichtner, N.J. Department of Labor and Workforce Development; Mike Wallace, N.J. Business and Industry Association; Gale Spak, NJIT; Mark Magyar, N.J. Senate Democratic Office; Christopher Emigholz, N.J. Republican Office.

Later, a panel with representatives from community colleges, career and technical education schools, private schools, universities and associations provided an overview of what programs are underway to train workers in needed skills. Much progress has been made over the last several years and graduates of these programs are now being hired and making a positive impact.

Senator Linda Greenstein (D-14), a member of the newly formed New Jersey Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, and two staff members, Mark Magyar, associate executive director, New Jersey Senate Democratic Office, and Christopher Emigholz, associate executive director/budget and research director, New Jersey Republican Office, then conducted an open session. Manufacturers eagerly shared their concerns and needs, and Senator Greenstein promised that the Manufacturing Caucus will have many future public meetings to better understand New Jersey manufacturers’ needs.

The day wrapped with the manufacturer-invite-only Apprenticeship Accelerator Program, where manufacturers from all over New Jersey packed the room to get advice and instruction on starting an apprentice program. Sally Nadler, manager of the MechaFORCE Registered Internship Manufacturing Program (M-RIM), developed by NJIT and an ApprenticeshipUSA-approved program, gave an overview of M-RIM, which sponsors registered internships throughout New Jersey and provides manufacturers with support to start and complete apprenticeship programs. Representatives from Jobs for the Future, a federally sponsored program that develops innovative programs and public policies aimed at building a more highly skilled and competitive workforce, presented information about the benefits of apprenticeship/internship programs and how to establish them. And testimonials from employers and apprentices offered real-world advice and success stories.

Additionally, Torsten Schimanski, director of open enrollment training, NJMEP, shared his knowledge on implementing Festo’s Dual-Educational Apprenticeship Program, Mechatronics, in Ohio. Joanne Branin, executive director, NJIT Continuing Professional Education, then spoke about manufacturing training and education programs available through NJIT.

Feedback from attendees concluded that both the morning and afternoon sessions were very worthwhile to attend.

For more information on this event, contact Vaccari at raymond.vaccari@njit.edu.