By John Reitmeyer
Proposed bond issue would help vocational-technical schools deliver what New Jersey manufacturers need most, skilled workers that will help them flourish
The number of high school students seeking a vocational-technical education instead of going the college-prep route is rising in New Jersey, a trend that comes as many companies are looking for workers with specific skills instead of a college degree.
Vocational-technical high schools in all 21 counties could help bridge the gap, but they’ve been facing a space crunch, so state lawmakers are stepping in with a proposed bond issue that would help pay for new classrooms and other facilities.
…Under legislation…approved by a key Senate committee last week, the state would issue $500 million in general-obligation bonds to help county vocational-technical high schools and community colleges expand their technical-education programs or create new ones.
The proposed bond issue follows a series of hearing held in recent months by a legislative “manufacturing caucus” that was organized by lawmakers to update state regulations and policies governing New Jersey’s rebounding manufacturing industry.
One of the key issues that came up repeatedly during the caucus hearings was how economic growth in New Jersey is being held back because many companies simply can’t find enough employees with the right technical skills to fill their job openings, even as the demand for vocational-technical education is surging in New Jersey.
“Here’s an opportunity for us to fix that,” said Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen), who’s serving as the manufacturing panel’s leader. “This is really something that is critical.”