A pathway to success

The agreement signing means Rowan and the county’s Workforce Development Board can create partnerships with industry for apprenticeship opportunities.

Rowan, county sign deal to offer easy access to job training

Deptford’s Economic Development Center was the setting for the April 19 signing of a historic agreement that merges the resources of Rowan College of South Jersey and the Gloucester County Workforce Development Board (WDB) to enhance worker readiness.

“We want to build a pathway to success and a pipeline of talent,” said Commissioner Director Heather Simmons, one of the signers, who added that the merger creates a South Jersey ecosystem for education and training.

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“We can do this better as a team,” she noted.

The agreement enables both Rowan and the WDB to create partnerships with industry for apprenticeship pathways that offer experiential learning, Simmons explained.

“It also gives us an opportunity to expand the programming that we’re doing, particularly for our youth, 16 to 24 years old,” Simmons explained. “We’re expanding literacy programs, and for everybody in the system, we’re expanding access to apprenticeships in emerging industries like wind, cannabis, food and health care.

“This is a big day.”

“We have been working hand in glove with the Workforce Development Board for years,” Rowan President Dr. Frederick Keating said during the signing ceremony at the Economic Development Center on the college’s Deptford campus.

“This county has the vision and courage to take this step forward,” he noted. “It’s the perfect storm. It’s the first college-county workforce development marriage in the state of New Jersey.”

“It’s an honor to witness the progress of this vision,” said board of commissioners Director Frank DiMarco. “The program will be more open to county residents.”

“Over the past 10 years, we have built a strong partnership. The merger is for the betterment of the community,” said WDB Chairman Les Vail, who added that residents who seek jobs can learn about educational opportunities at the Economic Development Center.

“This is a celebration,” said Commissioner Jim Jefferson, who added that the merger can benefit young people and adults “who have taken the wrong path” to start a career journey.

“It gives people a chance to change their lives.”

One objective of the deal is to increase the percentage of South Jersey residents who have earned a post-secondary credential or degree, with a focus on traditionally marginalized groups and adult and youth populations.

The collaboration between Rowan and the WDB includes developing an incumbent worker workforce literacy and basic skills training program and an incumbent workers’ advanced training program. Both are expected to provide non-credit and credit pathways to success.

Plans also call for creating a partnership with local businesses for pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeship pathways.

WDB Executive Director Michelle Shirey told the more than 50 people in attendance for the agreement signing that her philosophy is “Go big or go home.”

“We have many great partnerships,” she added, thanking her own team.

“Every single person is valuable,” said Shirey, who also acknowledged that the Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce – whose office is also in the Economic Development Center – has been a tremendous help to the WDB.

For information about Rowan programs go to www.RCSJ.edu. To learn about the WDB, visit  gloucestercountynj.gov.

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