NJ Builds Tech Workforce Talent Network

The N.J. Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) unveiled on Wednesday the recipients maxine_ballenof grants to create a workforce training program called Talent Networks.  Receiving one of the $385,000 grants was the New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC), a trade organization that is branching into job creation and facilitation. The objective of the grant, which actually began on July 1, is to provide training for individuals seeking a career in technology or making a transition between companies, according to the LWD website.

NJTechWeekly.com spoke to Maxine Ballen, founder and CEO of NJTC, about the organization’s plans to implement the grant.

Ballen readily admits that NJTC is “new at this” and will be working very closely with an advisory board composed of representatives from New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers University and some of the state’s community colleges. They will “really assist us to make sure that the premises of some of the activities we’ve projected to launch are sound.” Prior to receiving this grant, networking for jobs and job creation were informal processes for NJTC.

NJTC activities related to implementing the grant include:

  • Workshops—Six daylong workshops targeted at individuals entering the tech workforce or those making the transition to it will be held in four areas of the state.
  • Conferences—Two daylong conferences, one in northern N.J. and one in the south, will feature industry leaders who are looking for workers or entrepreneurs who wish to inspire tech startups.
  • A career website—This initiative was already under way at NJTC prior to the organization receiving the grant, but it dovetailed well with the grant requirements.
  • Internships and externships—NJTC will dedicate a portion of its grant to internship and externship opportunities and will work closely with colleges and students to provide placement.

NJTC has already hired a qualified individual, Johanna Zitto of JZ Consulting and Training LLC, to run the program and provide training, Ballen said. NJTC also plans to work with reputable organizations like the Hoboken Tech Meetup and the incubator Dreamit Ventures, which operates out of Pa. and N.Y. “We will also work closely with the Department of Labor and their career website, which takes people’s skills and matches them with career opportunities,” she added. NJTC already has its own venture fund and works closely with Jumpstart NJ Angel Network in support of N.J. entrepreneurs.

The state is creating Talent Networks in six career areas: transportation, logistics and distribution; life sciences; advanced manufacturing; financial services; healthcare; and technology and entrepreneurship. “I think the most exciting thing about this is that the state of N.J. is taking a leadership role,” Ballen said. She added that N.J. had been near the bottom of the states in terms of creating new employment opportunities. “Each one of those talent areas presents a unique opportunity for people who want to transition into careers that clearly will have a future.”

The $2.31 million in funds to support this initiative come from the U.S. government via the Workforce Investment Act. Ballen says that by the end of this year NJTC will have to produce metrics showing that the funds were well spent, and that the grant could possibly be renewed for a second year.

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