Northern New Jersey's workforce is aging, and the next generation is worse-off in terms of finding and attaining high-quality jobs, according to a study recently released by Together North Jersey.
The regional planning coalition released the "North Jersey Partners Regional Workforce Collaboration" final report earlier this month, which found that three out of every four job openings in northern N.J. are due to aging workers retiring, not new job creation.
Concurrently, the study said several employment centers in the region – in western Essex County, Morris County and Union County, specifically – are "underserved" by existing transit options.
The study looked at employment opportunities and workers in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union, and Warren Counties.
Workers in that region also face a higher cost of living — a family of four in North Jersey needs to pull in a minimum of $73,000 annually, the report said. But, future job growth in the area is expected to be concentrated in low-wage occupations, the study found. As a result, a growing number of people are traveling out of the region to find higher quality jobs, it said.
"The Great Recession has had a lasting impact on the region's economy," the report said. "Workers are increasingly leaving the region to find work. High unemployment levels suggest that economic recovery has been weak."
The report made seven recommendations on how governments and agencies in the region could remedy the situation:
Work with employers to ensure transit service to employment centers
Consider innovations in technology, mobile applications and the sharing economy – carshare programs like Zipcar and rideshare services like Uber – to supplement the transit system
Facilitate a nurturing environment for entrepreneurs in transit-connected downtowns
Continue efforts to align school curricula with the skills required for career path jobs
Enhance interaction between workforce professionals and private industry employers
Implement "experienceships" – grants that subsidize the first year of work by an entry-level worker, and incentivize hiring of new workers
Sustain partnerships between economic development, workforce development and transportation professionals
Members of the coalition said collaboration between transportation services, employers, and government agencies would be key to changing the trends.
"This project was a perfect example of the role that collaboration plays in tackling complex and challenging issues," Tammy Molinelli, Executive Director of the Bergen County Workforce Investment Board, said in a statement. Molinelli also serves as Chairperson of North Jersey Partners, which helped conduct the report.
"Having a cross-section of workforce experts, transportation planners and land use professionals around the table enabled us to develop creative solutions to our region's most pressing problems."
In terms of technology, the study said local businesses should be more creative in an effort to attract a skilled local workforce.
"A strong workforce system is one that embraces and maximizes innovation," Dennis Bone, Chairman of the NJ State Employment and Training Commission, said in a statement about the report.
"There is tremendous potential for technology and innovation to reshape the jobs of the future and in doing so, create workforce opportunities."
The study is one of 18 being carried out by Together North Jersey. Others have found that Newarkers, specifically, face "severe challenges" to earning a living wage, and that the city should be better connected to towns around it.
Content gathered & updated by the Bergen Review Media team.