School district budgets are tight, the bar has been raised on educational standards, and technology has made the world smaller so that today’s students will be facing global competition when they enter the workforce. With all of these challenges, how can districts assure that all students are college- and career-ready?

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation (NJCCF), the nonprofit arm of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, a private business membership organization, can help. The mission of the NJCCF is to build a highly qualified workforce through innovative collaborations with K-12 education and the workforce training and preparation system.

All programs that NJCCF offers use the power and influence of the business community to motivate students and focus them on their primary job: academic achievement compatible with their potential.
Independent research shows that NJCCF programs change student attitudes and behaviors, and result in significant increases in motivation and substantial increases in enrollment in elective courses such as trigonometry and physics.

Much of what NJCCF offers is free to school districts, thanks to support from long-time funders, including Prudential Financial, Verizon, the Horizon Foundation, PSEG, Phillips 66 and TD Bank.

For schools with tight budgets, NJCCF offers assisted fundraising services that will reach out to the local business community, access contributors, build community awareness, and recruit business people to deliver tough, honest messages about the ultra-competitive worlds of college admissions and employment. Done under NJCCF’s broad community outreach initiative, Workforce 2025, NJCCF assisted fundraising can harvest enough support to accommodate the introduction of other NJCCF programs, listed below. Some efforts ‘go deep,’ and aim to impact smaller numbers of at-risk students; others ‘go broad,’ targeting entire student bodies.

Here are some of the initiatives:

The LearnDoEarn Student Achievement System

Teachers tell their students daily that what they are learning in middle and high school is important. Parents tell their children to pay attention in class and do their homework. Sometimes these messages fall on deaf ears. But when the business community tells teenagers that slacking off in school will negatively affect their future employment, or that their blue hair color may be “personal expression” but could cost them a job, they sit up and listen. The NJCCF created a way to ensure that these messages from employers reach students through an engaging, and easy-to-use program delivered by teachers in the classroom.

The LearnDoEarn Student Achievement System is a career readiness program dedicated to making sure that students get the information they need to improve their educational, career, financial, and life options and to ensure they know how their personal behaviors will impact their employability.

LearnDoEarn (Learn More Now, Do More Now, Earn More Later) delivers honest messages and uses eye-popping, research-backed data presented in a powerful suite of unique classroom presentations, business simulation games, and activities to influence student behaviors.

The program has proven impact, increasing enrollments in critical high school courses in math, science, language arts and economics, and improving attendance and punctuality.

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation commissioned a four-year study to assess the impact of the LearnDoEarn program. The data, gathered from five after-school programs and four high schools using the LearnDoEarn modules. The data showed a significant increase in the number of students who reported enrolling in Trigonometry, Calculus, Chemistry, Physics and other math and science courses.

In a separate evaluation conducted by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development with students with special needs in Newark were surveyed after hearing program presentations and playing the educational games. All of the students agreed that the training improved their knowledge of what employers are looking for when they hire new workers and 86 percent stated that they will use some of the strategies discussed when looking for a job.

LearnDoEarn is being used by more than 400 schools and after school programs in the state. The NJCCF offers several free teacher workshops throughout the year, at which time participants receive access to the program’s online classroom materials.

The NJCCF is also available to deliver workshops directly to students to help ensure that they graduate better prepared for college and work. Called “workshopititions” (workshop + competition), these one- to five-day events provide students with critical presentations, engage them in a product design competition, and have them compete as teams in business simulation games.

The latest component of the program, just launched, is the free mobile app ‘R U College and Career Ready?’ which is a survey that students can use on mobile devices to see how close they are to being on target for success. Learn more at

The CollegeCareerReady Academy

Do you know of students who have the academic potential to succeed in college if they only had a little extra motivation? The CollegeCareerAcademy (CCRA) may be just what they need.

The CCRA is a unique summer residential experience at prestigious New Jersey institutions of higher education for high-potential high school students. The program will help ensure high school students are motivated to perform at the peak of their abilities so they will excel in the colleges and careers they choose.

Through a week of workshops, simulation games, design competitions, and interaction with college admissions officials, deans and professors from various academic fields, and business leaders, participants learn about different career and academic paths and about what it take to succeed in college and in life.

Open-enrollment academies are being held at The College of New Jersey, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Drew University, and Montclair State University. Students attending the Academy at New Jersey City University do so by invitation only. The Academy at the Kessler Foundation is for students with mobility disabilities and is free of charge. Parents can register their own children or schools can take advantage of the education discount by going to: Parents can pay the academy tuition for other students, or corporations or schools can sponsor a student.

Remote Internship Experience

Many districts have transition programs or work/study initiatives that provide students with hands-on experience with a local employer. However, in the current economy, most businesses have curtailed or eliminated programs that provide internships for high school students due to lack of resources, increased staff workloads, and growing liability concerns. Those who still offer these programs usually assign young interns mundane and uninspiring tasks that often leave students less than enthusiastic about the world of work. The Remote Internship Experience (RIExperience) presents students with the opportunity to participate in a unique, engaging, and demanding learning opportunity as off-site interns with the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce without ever leaving the school building.

Individuals participating in the RIExperience will deploy a social entrepreneurship project that they conceive, plan, execute, and measure. The project should make measurable improvements in a life (other students, younger children, adults, animals) or to the environment. The project can be undertaken over the course of the school year; be delivered in a particular marking period, summer, or after school program; or serve as a capstone senior project. Additional program details can be found at:

Almost Real Products

With more and more employers using online job applications, it becomes important for students to have an opportunity to practice completing online forms in a safe environment that allows them to learn from mistakes without costing them a job before they even get an interview.

Almost Real Products (ARP) is a fictitious company that offers all job seekers, ages 14 and up, the opportunity to practice completing job applications and taking pre-employment tests and surveys. Unlike real job application websites, all surveys and assessments on are scored instantaneously, providing immediate feedback to students who can use results to develop a better sense of their job readiness. Additionally, ARP allows students to print completed pages for review with instructors, who can review deficiencies and close knowledge gaps. Students can access the system as often as desired, improving their performance and as a result, their ability to clear the first hurdle in securing an interview and eventually, a job. For a free trial, visit ARP’s website.

Additional information on all of the programs and services of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation can be found under the K –12 Education: The Workforce Pipeline.

Donna Custard is vice president for programs at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation and a member of the Burlington Township school board. She can be reached at (609) 789-5274. Her views are her own and do not represent those of the Burlington Township school board.