But how to train workers and match them to the right employers?
The Meadowlands Region Chamber of Commerce [MRCC] received $100,000 last month from the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission as seed money for an Employment Opportunity Center."We want to connect the burgeoning work force opportunities with the full range of labor needs," said Chamber President Jim Kirkos. "The Center will complement district Workforce Investment Boards, county colleges, and Department of Labor Programs."
What it takes
The initial study will focus on the workforce development needs of the Meadowlands district. Consultant Richard Fritski at MRCC is spearheading the project to create a well-placed, skilled work force.
Fritski said while the Meadowlands region has traditionally had a strong, ongoing job development presence through programs such as the NJ Office of Custom Training and the NJ Workforce Development Partnership, there has never been a formalized network of agencies, schools and businesses to share information.
"The Center would reinvigorate employment efforts to navigate the impact of the major redevelopment projects like the Secaucus Transit Village and such," said Fritski. "There's a lot on the docket - a lot could happen in the near future."
The Center will have an Internet site with a "real-time switching station" where employers and job hunters can find the latest information on job postings, employment training and other pertinent resources for the Meadowlands market.
Fritski said the laundry list for the Center includes job development and counseling, managerial and executive recruitment and mentoring, and a summer internship program for area high school students and undergraduates. "This will be a comprehensive and holistic approach, reaching into the business community, developing relationships and exploring employer needs," said Fritski. "Say if business X is laying off technicians and business Z is looking for those technicians, we can generate a smooth transition for everyone involved. Many times you get there too early or too late."
The $100,000 grant will cover the initial study. For four years after that, Kirkos said there could be an additional $400,000 for the Center from NJMC's MAGNET program. The Meadowlands Area Grants for Natural and Economic Transformation, a $32 million, five-year plan aimed at economic growth allocating funds to projects in the Meadowlands district, was approved at NJMC last year.
"The Chamber has a commitment to help craft a plan that will drive economic dollars into the region," said Kirkos.
From your town to the region
Roxanne Paciga, Secaucus's employment assistance program coordinator, said the new center could enhance and extend the opportunities for local residents. "Any help is a benefit," she said.
Mayor Dennis Elwell first put the Secaucus program in place when he was elected two years ago. Elwell said he resurrected an old program that had been discontinued over time.
"The old program was instituted many years ago but dwindled to nothing," said Elwell. "The number of calls I got from townspeople looking for work far exceeded what we could provide in government."
Paciga said she networks with local businesses and makes a match with people who come to the town clerk's office with their resumes. Making human resource departments aware of the program has been useful for employers and job-hunters.
Most Secaucus residents work out of town, said Elwell. With the new Employment Opportunity Center on the horizon, a broader base of opportunity will be available for job hunters.
"We have a varied workforce here," said Elwell. "Some people work at home; some like to work in town, and some travel out of town or out of state. The future developments in the Meadowlands will supplement everything we've done in Secaucus."