New Jersey Skills Gap Summit host by Lincoln Tech
Lincoln Tech’s South Plainfield campus, joined by the school’s Union and Mahwah campuses, hosted key government officials and top hiring managers from around the state on Friday, September 27th for the first-ever New Jersey Skills Gap Summit. Building off a summit held at the Columbia, Maryland campus earlier this year, Lincoln Tech welcomed a State Assemblyman, a representative from the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development and a top auto industry employer.
State Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak – whose district includes the city of South Plainfield, and who also serves as Deputy Majority Whip in the State Legislature – was among the day’s speakers. Joining him were Nicholas Toth, Assistant Director of the newly-created Office of Apprenticeship at the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development; and Gary Uyematsu, National Technician Training Director for BMW of North America.
Campus President Jim Kuntz and Lincoln Tech President & CEO Scott Shaw opened the morning by welcoming guests and setting the tone for a solutions-focused conversation about solving the hiring challenges faced by employers. Shaw also reiterated the importance of Lincoln Tech’s mission in helping to overcome the skills gap crisis.
“Students come to Lincoln Tech to get a job,” he said. “We are there to train them and help them get that job as quickly as possible. [The skills gap] is significant and it is not going away any time soon.”
Assemblyman Karabinchak also runs a general contracting company, and as a hiring manager himself, he was able to speak to the challenges faced by today’s employers – and to the benefits waiting for students who graduate from hands-on career training.
“Companies like ours have a hard time finding skilled craftsmen,” he said. “Almost every contractor I talk to can’t find [trades] people. If you’re a technician, or if you’re going into the skilled trades, [the demand] makes the starting salaries in many cases better than those for people coming out of a four-year college.”
Assistant Director Toth spoke to the current state of New Jersey’s labor force, and to the opportunities that exist in developing a better trained, better skilled pool of candidates for the positions that exist today.
“What you’re doing right now is going to become such an important part of your future,” Toth told students in attendance. “You couldn’t be doing it at a better time. The reality is that there is a huge job shortage for auto and diesel technicians and [many of the] skilled trades. That’s why we’re here. It’s important that we think about where the state’s workforce is today.”
More than 50 employers - representing the auto, diesel, heavy equipment, transport refrigeration, HVAC, electrical, manufacturing and welding industries – attended the summit, speaking about the impact the skills gap is having on their businesses. With a lack of workforce candidates who possess the skills demanded by their particular industries, hiring managers came ready to discuss solutions to be found in the training and academic arena.
Among the employers attending was Gary Uyematsu, National Technician Training Director for BMW of North America. Since 2011, BMW has offered its proprietary Service Technician Education Program (STEP) at Lincoln Tech’s Grand Prairie campus, and now MINI, a BMW brand, provides STEP training at the campus as well. Before implementing STEP training programs, Lincoln Tech has been helping graduates start careers at BMW locations across the country for decades.
Uyematsu cited BMW’s “amazing” partnership of more than 20 years with Lincoln Tech and Lincoln’s participation in STEP, which has helped graduate more than 4,000 BMW technicians nationwide to date. “We’re growing,” he said of BMW. “We need 1,500-1,700 new technicians every year, and we can’t find or train them fast enough.” That, he explained, is why Lincoln Tech schools play such a major role in BMW’s success.
Job growth & salary potential make New Jersey the place to work
By 2026 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 71,000 positions will become available across New Jersey in the auto and diesel industries, along with skilled trades such as electrical and electronic systems, HVAC, welding, and computerized manufacturing*. Lincoln Tech schools are the state’s top provider of graduates in several of these industries, and have been a fixture of New Jersey’s postsecondary education landscape since 1946**.
The state also ranks at or near the top for entry-level and median salaries in many of these fields, including Automotive Technician, Diesel & Truck Technician, HVAC specialist, CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) Machining and Manufacturing professional, and Electrician*.
Hiring managers are unable to fill key positions in skilled trades
As older generations of workers retire, finding their replacements has proven challenging across almost every hands-on industry – from auto, diesel and the trades to IT, healthcare support, cosmetology and culinary arts. The past 20 years have seen a dramatic shift among high school graduates toward pursuing 4-year college degrees. These paths, however, have not been the best fits for more tech-minded individuals, and the economic downturn of the mid-2000s permanently altered the job outlook for many holding these degrees.
The resulting skills gap has left employers with millions of positions to fill. But they’re searching for candidates within a workforce that often doesn’t possess the particular skills these positions demand.
“No one wants to get their hands dirty these days,” says Tom Commorato of Thermo King East, one of the nation’s leading transport refrigeration companies. “[Industries] are hurting for professionals.”
Thermo King has partnered with Lincoln Tech’s South Plainfield campus for years in an effort to maintain their team of transport refrigeration specialists. Commorato, General Manager for Thermo King East, sent his own son to Lincoln Tech to earn the credentials he needed to enter the field. A field like transport refrigeration is a perfect example of how the skills gap can affect every life in America: imagine if there weren’t enough technicians to repair and maintain the refrigeration systems on the trucks hauling fresh and frozen produce to your local supermarket or restaurant. What impact would that have on food quality and safety, or on the costs of getting food to market before it spoiled?
Turn the skills gap challenge into your advantage – train at Lincoln Tech for a career that’s in demand across New Jersey, and you can take your future in an exciting new direction. Contact your local campus today about upcoming classes and opportunities.
* Source: careeronestop.org for the years 2016-2026. Salary information is based on median salary information collected for the year 2017. The average starting pay rate nationwide was $13.69/hour. Data is current as of June 30, 2019.
** Based on IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) data collected for 2017 graduates.