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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 29, 2000. All rights reserved.

The Employee Pipeline

E-mail: MelindaSherwood@princetoninfo.com

The realization that there’s a serious shortage of labor

casts a shadow on economic prosperity. According to a recent survey

by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, 8 of 10 companies

with plans to expand have already run up against this problem. "Across

the board, companies have the same problem — finding qualified

workers to fill the job opportunities that they have," says Carl

Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce

Development, a research institute affiliated with the Bloustein School

of Planning and Public Policy that aims to understand labor issues

in New Jersey. "This is a good opportunity to have a dialogue

about strategies that work."

Members of the business and academic community meet to do just that

on Thursday, March 30, at 9 a.m. at the Innovation Garden State Workforce

Symposium on the campus of Raritan Valley Community College. The centerpiece

of the symposium will be ways in which businesses and academic institutions

can work together to equip college students with the kind of skills

that are most valuable in today’s high-tech, highly competitive marketplace.

"One of the best new models is the cooperative relationship between

the pharmaceutical industry and the Rutgers School of Management,

whose new pharmaceutical MBA program is designed to provide specialized

training for business students," says Van Horn.

Other partnership models will be discussed by representatives from

the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Bloustein School of Planning

and Public Policy, Stevens Institute of Technology, Bergen Community

College; Raymond Farley, superintendent, Hunterdon Central Regional

Schools, Cisco Systems, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Merrill Lynch will

all be in attendance. Van Horn will be moderating. The free conference

is sponsored by the Edison Partnership and Prosperity New Jersey.

Call 888-977-6773. Free.

Van Horn, who has a BS in economics from the University of Pittsburgh,

Class of 1972, and a PhD from Ohio State, was appointed to head the

Heldrich Center for Workforce Development in 1997, after 22 years

with the Bloustein School. (John Heldrich was a senior executive

at Johnson & Johnson with a long-time interest in workforce issues

— the center named after him eventually will be located in a 15-story

mixed use facility also being named after him in New Brunswick. Heldrich

Plaza, scheduled for completion in 2002, will also house a conference

center, a 200-room hotel, and 200 market-rate apartments currently

being developed in New Brunswick.) The Heldrich Center does significant

research and produces quarterly surveys, including a recently-completed

survey on the digital economy and people’s attitudes about computers

(www.heldrich.rutgers.edu).

Low unemployment is only one factor contributing to the labor shortage.

"In the old economy, if you had a BA, you’d get a couple years

training, but businesses can’t afford to do that anymore because of

competition," says Van Horn.

Academe is also hard-pressed to keep up with the "real world"

technologies. To compensate for that gap, some schools are building

cooperative relationships with businesses and creating a pipeline

for skilled labor.

At DeVry Institute, for example, Eric Addeo, dean of the electronics

and telecommunications department, is working closely with Williams

Communications Solutions to prepare students for jobs. "Academia

is always lagging behind in what they offer the students and what

industry really needs," he says. "They provide theory, but

with little reference to current and evolving technologies. What’s

happening is that the gap is widening at an accelerating rate because

of the push to embrace high-tech. All people realize that the telecommunications

industry is changing at such a radical pace, and no one organization

can keep up with that, so fundamental alliances are important."

Addeo’s department has received both state-of-the-art equipment and

expertise from Williams in its partnership. "What’s unique about

DeVry is that we have a program in telecommunications and electronic

engineering that is very much matched to the reality of what’s going

on in the real world," says Addeo. "To reinforce the principles,

students are exposed to very current technologies such as optical

communications, wireless, integrated computer telephony platforms,

and advanced networking."

There are three paradigms for the kind of business-academic partnership

that is most effective, says Van Horn:

Internships and cooperative education. Students spend

a part of their week at a job site usually for academic credit, then

they return back to the school setting. This kind of program is expanding

rapidly in American high schools.

Faculty externships. A college faculty member works at

a company in the area so they learn state-of-the-art and bring that

back to the classroom.

A specialized curriculum designed to meet the needs of

a particular industry (i.e, the Rutgers pharmaceutical MBA).

"Educational partnerships are the pipeline or supply chain

of new entry level workers with your company," says Van Horn.

"It’s also the place where your employees get continuing education.

The relationship between business and education can’t be overstated."

— Melinda Sherwood


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