Manufacturing companies are still a big part of New Jersey’s economy, and many of them have positions they need to fill — jobs that pay significantly more than other industries.
That was the bait business leaders offered yesterday in Newark to several hundred high schoolers, some from vocational and technology programs.
“There’s more than 11,000 manufacturers in New Jersey. That’s pretty awesome … the average wage is $89,000,” said John Kennedy, chief operating officer of New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Program.
Kennedy’s mission? To entice students from high schools from around the state to get trained and ready for those jobs that require training and skills to work with advanced machinery.
That’s a different type of education than comes with a college degree.
“The starting point doesn’t need to be a college education, absolutely not,” said Meredith Aronson, director of ManufactureNJ, a state-funded program at NJIT. “But it’s not for lack of skills. You don’t walk in off the street and say ‘I’m qualified for this job.’ These are not jobs that are filling orders and running paper back and forth—these are jobs running expensive equipment that can kill you in some cases.”
Manufacturing jobs make up a reduced but still-important slice of the state’s private sector workforce: around 245,000 jobs out of 3.3 million, according to the Department of Labor’s seasonally adjusted September report.
The industry is in the spotlight now because of ManufactureNJ Week, which began yesterday by proclamation of Gov. Chris Christie.
The state’s goal is to raise the industry’s profile through a series of events at companies like GE Aviation Systems in Whippany and Sandvik Coromant, which makes metal working tools in Fair Lawn.
Yesterday, at the kickoff at NJIT, that meant more than a dozen companies courting high schoolers.
“We’re trying to show them what we do, who we are and we do have openings,” said John Pusateri, an operations manager for Titan Tools based in Oakland, in Bergen County.
Pusateri’s company, which makes paint-spraying equipment, has about 40 temp workers and usually has about 15 temp work vacancies, he said.
Those temporary jobs can be a path to permanent positions.
“We do provide training,” said Andrew Kim, an NJIT engineering alumnus who represented Takasago, a maker of flavors and fragrances for food and consumer products. “For an entry-level person we look for their ability for learning, for math, for machines.”
Takasago employs about 180 manufacturing production workers, who the company trains, and 320 degree-holders.
The magnet of jobs seemed to be pulling at Ibad Khokhar, 16, a junior from High Tech High School in North Bergen, which offers majors to its students like automotive tech and computer-aided design.
“I don’t know what my major’s going to be,” Khokar said. “It’s pretty interesting to look at all these different ideas.”
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