At NJIT, Re-imagined Tech Talent Network To Help Industries with Innovation Workforces

Photo: Gale Tenen Spak, NJIT Photo Credit: Courtesy NJIT

Gale Tenen Spak, NJIT | Courtesy NJIT

NJIT recently received two grants totaling $450,000 from The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to continue as the lead agency for two of seven New Jersey Talent Networks: Technology and Advanced Manufacturing.

Talent Networks were established to focus on the specific needs of key industries in the state in order to connect employers, job seekers, the state’s One-Stop Career Centers and educational institutions. The object was to help job seekers develop the relevant skills that will lead to job opportunities, help employers find qualified employees, and ensure that New Jerseyans have access to training and educational opportunities that will lead to the jobs of the future.

Previously, the five-year-old Talent Networks worked directly with individual job seekers and companies. Now the Advanced Manufacturing Talent Network (“ManufactureNJ”), which received the largest grant ($300,000) of any other Talent Network this year, and the Technology Talent Network (formerly the “Technology and Entrepreneur Talent Network”), will connect with leaders who serve and represent relevant industries, who will then forge connections between their industries and job seekers.

The newly conceived Technology Talent Network received $150,000 to fulfill its mission. Two part-time directors will be hired to work as a team, according to Gale Tenen Spak, associate vice president of continuing and distance education at NJIT, who will administer the grant.

“Technology is ubiquitous and permeates every industry,” Spak told us. One of the directors will have experience with IT innovation, especially at early-term and start-up companies associated with the New Jersey Business Incubation Network, she said.

The second director will be someone who’s worked in the tech industry with big IT, but who also has some experience in education. “We have to change the educators, too, and what they are teaching, so that the future generation of workers in the state” will have jobs.

The TTN will now operate as New Jersey’s key source of intelligence in the tech industry, and as the principal adviser and expert consultant to the directors of the six other Talent Networks and their targeted industry sectors.

“It became clear that we needed to revamp the Tech Talent Network, and the two directors will be consultants to the other Talent Networks,” Spak said. She noted that each of the six other Talent Network directors are specialists in their fields.

In the past, the Talent Networks focused on individual companies and particular types of open jobs in their sectors. “For example, the Financial Talent Network has been focused on banking and bank tellers. They haven’t explored the IT innovations that have been going on in that sector,” said Spak. “So the Tech Talent Network directors will be cluing in the directors of the other networks as to the IT possibilities that can be applied in their specific sectors.”

The new TTN directors will be able to steer the other directors towards growth opportunities and innovations that could lead to better bottom lines, Spak explained. And they’ll be able to identify the IT jobs that are having an impact on the bottom line of similar companies in New Jersey or other states.

The TTN dropped its entrepreneurship mandate this year. Instead, it will look at industry trends, especially at current IT innovations, and advise how companies could incorporate those trends, and grow jobs as a result. After all, these New Jersey companies will go out of business unless they learn to better “incorporate what’s possible,” Spak said.

“This Talent Network is more experimental. We know the state is looking to us, NJIT, to help companies that are so dependent on IT breakthroughs to keep their businesses alive. We’ve been given a lot of flexibility to work this out. I’m really very grateful for the trust given to me and the university to make this happen,” Spak concluded.

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