Thursday, August 17, 2017
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson praised a proposal by Senate President Steve Sweeney that would place a bond referendum on the November 2018 ballot to help cover the cost of expanding the state’s network of 21 county vo-tech high schools. Senate President Sweeney proposed the idea as a way to ensure sustainable economic growth.
According to Levinson, Sweeney’s proposal would synergize Atlantic County’s economic strategy which emphasizes the need for economic diversity and workforce development.
“Improving the skills of our workforce is one of the biggest challenges facing Atlantic County today. We need more workers with solid math and computer skills to fill good paying jobs that don’t necessarily require college degrees. Our Atlantic County Institute of Technology would benefit greatly from this effort,” Levinson said. “Last year they had more than 1,000 applicants for 400 positions. This would enable ACIT to increase the number of students who want career and technical education.”
Phil Guenther, Superintendent of ACIT, said that Senator Sweeney’s proposal is very exciting and positive. “This would make it possible for us to create additional programs aligned with the county’s economic strategy that would both help create jobs and train workers for them. Many companies have a need for skilled workers but have difficulty finding them especially here in Atlantic County,” Guenther said.
As an example of the type of training program that would benefit from Senator Sweeney’s proposal, Levinson cited the county’s efforts to start an aviation maintenance and repair academy to help attract companies that do that type of work to the Atlantic City International Airport.
“The Atlantic County Economic Alliance and the South Jersey Transportation Authority are working closely to get these types of companies to locate in Atlantic County, but one of their biggest concerns is the need for workers. Additional funding would be a big help,” Levinson said.
Sweeney stated that while the amount necessary under the bond is still being tallied, he estimated it to be in the range of a few hundred million dollars. Law makers are expected to get a better idea of the amount required as a bipartisan legislative “manufacturing caucus” begins to hold hearings on how to strengthen New Jersey’s manufacturing industry.