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Sweeney-Ruiz-Cunningham Bill Would Promote ‘Work & Learn Consortiums’

Cooperative Degree Programs Provide Job Skills In High Demand Industries

TRENTON – Legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Sandra Cunningham that would promote the creation of  college-based programs that combine education and job training to better equip students with skills targeted for the modern workforce was approved by the Senate today with a vote of 40-0.

The bill, S-2303, would have county colleges establish “Work and Learn Consortiums” for the purpose of creating certificate and degree programs that lead to employment in industries in which there is a high demand for qualified workers. The consortium will work in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and local workforce investment boards to address the highest areas of labor demand in New Jersey.

“This unique and creative partnership that will have community colleges work with the private sector and government to create pathways for job skills that are in high demand in the workplace,” said Senator Sweeney. “It addresses several critical issues, including the affordability of a college education, access to a four-year degree program, vocational skills and workforce preparation. This approach is consistent with our commitment to vocational education and workforce development.”

The Work & Learn Consortiums are an alliance between higher education and business to address college accessibility and affordability while meeting employment demands in the local job market. It brings together vocational-technical schools, county colleges and four-year colleges and universities to create degree programs developed in conjunction with workforce and industry leaders designed to meet labor needs in New Jersey.

“This is a collaborative way to keep the dream of higher education alive,” said Senator Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee. “These partnerships offer the opportunity for educational institutions to work with government, the business community and others to provide students with modern-day job skills.”

The consortiums create a “stackable credential” program that will make earning degrees and certificates more flexible, affordable and attainable for many students. Stackable credentials are a series of credentials that allow students to move from a certificate to a baccalaureate degree in a selected field, with each credential building upon the prior credential. Later, if they find that they would like to go back to school or enter a field that requires a higher level of education, they can count their acquired education and work experience towards obtaining additional credentials.

“We have to recognize the importance of coordinating the opportunities among high schools, vocational training and higher education,” said Senator Cunningham, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “This program will provide a clear path from vo-tech to county college to four-year colleges and the workforce.”

The program will increase participation in the seven highest areas of labor demand in New Jersey: advanced manufacturing, financial services, transportation logistics, health care, biopharmaceutical sciences, hospitality and construction management.

The benefits to the student also include:

• Graduate prepared to enter a high-demand field

• Eliminates concerns about post-graduate job opportunities

• Affords multiple credentials to provide faster marketability

• Provides flexible “stop out” points if needed for life or work circumstances

• Offers paid internships for industry experience

• Converts relevant work experience into academic credit

• Ensures academic compliance and internship placement

• Complete all courses on RCGC’s campus or online

• Accommodates work and life responsibilities with flexible scheduling options courses