NJ Jobs Program Helps Match Unemployed with Companies

Engineer Bob MacPhee actually scored one of the 280,000 new jobs last month at HK Metalcraft Manufacturing in Lodi through a new jobs program in New Jersey. He got a call.

“’Hi, I’m the CEO of HK Metalcraft. Can you come in for an interview?’ I went, ‘Yeah, I think I can.’ And it just went really well,” MacPhee said.

MacPhee spent years looking for a job and did a brief stint with an insurance company.

“That wasn’t as satisfying as working in a manufacturing environment where they’re making stuff. That’s really where the action is,” he said.

“He does have the skills. It wasn’t necessarily in our industry recently, but what we saw was incredible potential — that he would be able to catch on quick. And in the past five weeks, he has certainly caught on quick,” said HK Metalcraft President Josh Hopp.

Hopp’s a fourth-generation CEO — the metal fabrication company was founded by his great grandad.

He says after a long decline Jersey manufacturing is rebounding. “What we could use is more education within the manufacturing sector. I see manufacturing coming back,” Hopp said.

“The economy is definitely moving along. With a print of 280,000 jobs we’re really beginning to pull out of the range where all we were doing was creating jobs to match the population growth — actually adding net jobs to the economy,” said Scott Rothbort, Department of Finance professor at Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University.

New Jersey’s jobless rate hit almost 300,000 in April with 136,000, some 46 percent of those, were long-term unemployed — meaning out of work for more than six months.

“There’s just not enough jobs out there for everybody who needs a job. We really need employers to get comfortable that the economy is going to improve and really start putting people back to work,” said John Fugazzie.

Fugazzie knows. He turned his job quest into a cause-celebre — a non-profit called Neighbors Helping Neighbors. He now runs Ready to Work New Jersey for the College Consortium using a $12 million federal and state grant that funds job training for long-term un- and under-employed.

“Many of these people are game ready, they’re job ready. In some cases for some people their skills have fallen off so they do need to go back for some retraining. We want to train people so that there’s jobs for them when they’re done with the training,” Fugazzie said.

Fugazzie can offer classes at community colleges, but also subsidizes on-site training for companies that promise to hire a candidate. One of his early success stories: matching MacPhee and HK Metalcraft.

“And our success with the grant getting us to Bob. I feel that when we hire we will be looking for candidates that match the grant qualifications and it will have an impact on our hiring process,” Hopp said.

“I sound like a broken record, but yes I’m very happy,” MacPhee said.

Advice from Fugazzie — even if you do land a new job, keep your eyes open. The economic landscape remains volatile with companies merging and downsizing all the time.

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