The Senate Labor Committee met Jan. 27 and released three bills aimed at expanding apprenticeship opportunities for New Jersey residents. The NJSBA supports each of the following measures.

S-688 enhances, and allocates funds for, pre-apprenticeship programs. The measure enhances and expands current initiatives under the “Youth Transitions to Work Partnership Act” to establish pre-apprenticeship programs to help young people enter apprenticeship programs with links to post-secondary education and other credentials. According to the N.J. Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Youth Transitions to Work program provides greater opportunities and incentives for high school juniors and seniors and facilitates effective transitions to high-skill, high-wage employment in high-demand occupations.

The bill increases funding for the youth transitions partnership and requires that consortia which receive “youth transitions” grants use a portion of the grants for pre-apprenticeship programs.  The bill enhances the services provided to program participants by adding training in life skills, training in needed basic math and literacy skills, and supportive services, in addition to those provided in current law.  The bill requires the consortia to maximize participation not only by women and minority group members, but by individuals with disabilities as well.

S-689 provides funding for the New Jersey Pathways Leading Apprentices to a College Education (“NJ PLACE”) program to establish college credit toward degrees in connection with new and existing apprenticeship programs. The bill directs consortia that receive grants from the “youth transitions” partnership to use a portion of the money to establish programs providing linkages from apprenticeship to post-secondary education. The bill heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

S-973 requires the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Education and the chief diversity officer of New Jersey, to establish a peer-to-peer statewide apprenticeship mentoring program for women, minorities, and people with disabilities. According to the bill statement, the purpose of the program is to provide mentoring and support services to women, minorities, and people with disabilities, as well as to establish a network of peers involved in apprenticeship groups among those groups. The bill also requires the labor commissioner to analyze which groups of people are under-represented in industries throughout the state, and then form employee resource groups for apprentices involved in those industries.

Senate Higher Education Committee

The Senate Higher Education Committee convened Jan. 30 and advanced the following measure:

Teacher Loan Redemption ProgramS-969 would establish a Loan Redemption Program in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) to allow teachers to redeem a portion of their NJCLASS loan amounts for service as a teacher in a high-need field in a “low-performing school” as defined in the bill. NJSBA supports the legislation and believes that incentives, such as grants and loans, should be made available to attract outstanding students to the teaching profession, particularly in areas of critical shortage. The Association also believes that loans should be forgiven for students who agree to teach a certain number of years in areas of critical shortage. If the bill receives final approval in its current form, up to $1 million could be appropriated to the program.  The bill now goes to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.