Greenstein/Gordon/Madden ‘Back To Work NJ’ Bill Approved By Senate Budget And Appropriations Committee

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

Program Would Provide On-The-Job Training for New Jersey’s Unemployed

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Linda R. Greenstein, Bob Gordon and Fred H. Madden that would allow New Jersey’s unemployed to receive on-the-job training to learn new skills and potentially find employment was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today. The “Back to Work NJ” program would pair unemployed workers with New Jersey businesses in a six-week training program.

“With continuously high unemployment numbers and an economy that has yet to rebound, we must look to new and innovative ways to encourage employers to create new jobs and to put New Jersey’s unemployed back to work,” Senator Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer) said. “The ‘Back to Work NJ’ program will offer a path to employment for state residents, many of whom have been unemployed for long periods of time and will offer a unique opportunity to learn new skills and trades.”

The bill, S-3080, will create a program based on the successful Georgia Work$ program. “Back to Work NJ” would allow companies looking to hire new employees to take on an unemployed state resident for up to six weeks of on-the-job training. During that time, the individual would be able to work up to 24 hours per week while continuing to receive unemployment compensation, as well as be eligible for up to a $100 stipend to help defray the costs of transportation or child care and workers compensation insurance.

“Given the increased globalization of our economy, many unemployed New Jerseyans might not be prepared for current employment options,” Senator Gordon (D-Bergen) said. “This program offers on-the-job training that will prepare unemployed participants for current world jobs, including jobs in technology and green-energy sectors.”

To be eligible to participate in the program, employers must be ready to immediately hire for a position in their companies; have the ability to provide training that meets requirements by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938; and be located within the state. Unemployed workers must be currently receiving unemployment benefits; have at least six weeks of state unemployment benefits remaining or at least six weeks of state or federal extensions of unemployment insurance remaining; and must currently reside in the state.

The bill would require all unemployed participants be treated as bona fide “trainees” as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Therefore, the Department of Workforce and Development would be required to certify that all participating employers are meeting the following conditions:

• The training is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;

• The training is for the benefit of the trainee;

• The trainee does not displace a regular employee;

• The trainee works under close observation;

• The employer that provides the training gains no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainee, and may have its operation impeded on occasion;

• The trainee is not entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and

• The employer and the trainee understand that the trainee is not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development will monitor participating employers as well as unemployed trainees through site visits and the compilation of data including numbers and percentages of trainees hired into employment with participating employers. Participating employers will be disqualified from future participation in the program and be subject to penalties if they are determined to have a repeated pattern of using trainees as unpaid labor without hiring them as employees or fail to comply with program requirements.

“With the unemployment rate holding steady above nine percent, we must look for new and innovative ways to get the economy moving again,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester, Camden), Chair of the Senate Labor Committee. “Success in states like Georgia shows that this program will allow employers the opportunity to assess and teach potential employees to help boost their workforce.”

According to the Georgia State Labor Department, the Georgia Work$ program has been deemed a huge success with more than 16,500 participating employers and having roughly 63 percent of unemployed participants finding permanent jobs within 90 days of completing the program.

The bill mirrors an earlier proposal which was vetoed by Governor Christie this past winter. Recently, President Obama has highlighted the Georgia Work$ Program and Senators Greenstein, Gordon and Madden are hopeful for the governor’s support this time around.

The bill would appropriate $3 million from the General Fund. It will now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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