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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 29, 2000. All rights reserved.
The Employee Pipeline
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
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:
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.
a company in the area so they learn state-of-the-art and bring that
back to the classroom.
a particular industry (i.e, the Rutgers pharmaceutical MBA).
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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