More than 360 Participants for “NJ Pathways to Career Opportunities Initiative” Virtual Meeting Led by New Jersey’s Community Colleges and NJBIA

Karla Roth-Bardinas

Think Media Communications or 732-996-9789

Trenton, New Jersey, January 20, 2022 – The “NJ Pathways to Career Opportunities” virtual meeting on Wednesday, led by New Jersey’s Community Colleges and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA), with 369 registered participants, moves the cutting edge agenda forward to align education with the needs of employers to build the strongest workforce in the nation.

“Today’s workforce summit exceeded its intended goal to bring together academia, business, labor, government and other stakeholders to converge in a way that brought out creative ideas, best practices, and solutions to today’s workforce crisis,” said NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka. “This collaboration will set a strong agenda to build and sustain New Jersey’s workforce for a growing innovation economy.”

“The engagement and participation throughout New Jersey are incredibly promising. We are building momentum by relationship building and partnerships in the business community. We know it will take a coalition of industry and education partners to build an innovative workforce, and the event today confirmed that employers are eager for education to meet their current and future needs. We are confident it is a new day for New Jersey’s economy,” said Dr. Aaron R. Fichtner, President of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC).

Industry panelists who spoke in support of this initiative were Cathy Bennett, NJ Hospital Association (Health Services), Aaron Price, TechUnitedNJ (Technology and Innovation), Clint Wallace, Sanofi (Pharma/Manufacturing), and Bernie Corrigan, IBEW (Infrastructure).

Speakers in the Health Services Breakout session were Matthew DiBartolomeo, Manager of Academic Relations at Hackensack Meridian Health, Lourdes Valdes, Corporate Director, Workforce Development and Grants at RWJ Barnabas Health, Robert Kley, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Mental Health Association in NJ, and Lauren Frary, Executive Director of The Arc of Somerset County. Speakers in the Infrastrucure and Energy breakout session were Dexter Hendricks, Vice President, Community and Citizenship of Turner Construction Company, Dan Kennedy, Senior Director, Environmental and Utility Operations at Utility & Transportation Contractors Association, Waltasia Mansano, Manager, Clean Energy Jobs Program at PSE&G  Renewables & Energy Solutions, and Nick Raspanti, Government and Regulatory Affairs Manager at Zeem Solutions. Speakers for the Technology and Innovation breakout session were Angel Pineiro, Vice President of Strategic, Academic Relationships at CompTIA, Kate Byrnes, Senior Tech Recruiter at Audible Inc., an Amazon Company, and Rebecca Chisolm, Senior Leader Network Academy North America at Cisco. Speakers for the Manufacturing and Supply Chain breakout session were Jim Minadeo, President at Zero Surge, Armondo Villalabos, General Manager at Victory Packaging, Roy Ridings, Manager, Apprenticeships at Weiss-Aug, Hilary McCarron, Manager, Port Policy and Planning at NJ/NY Port Authority, and Gloria Vrabel, Senior Director Outreach, Talent Acquisition at NJ Transit Authority. Donald Borden, President of Camden County College, also spoke about the need for industry collaboration.

“We are grateful to all of our industry partners who participated and shared insights in their particular sectors about their ever-changing workforce needs. The support and interest shown today is an affirmation from the business community that we are on the right course to lead the nation as a model of what needs to be done post-pandemic and beyond, to make New Jersey’s economy soar,” added Catherine Frugé Starghill, Esq., Senior Director of Strategy and Workforce Partnerships, New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development.

“This was a very productive gathering of business, academia and labor leaders, as well as policymakers, which now sets the stage for developing the necessary education pathways and career credentials for our state’s workforce and future economy,” said NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas. “We are grateful for such tremendous participation and engagement from all of our stakeholders and interested parties today.”

The New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities was launched last month by NJ Community Colleges and NJBIA as a transformational initiative designed to align the state’s educational system to build an innovative workforce.

The program will align employers, industry associations, labor unions, educational institutions, and workforce development partners to provide students and workers with structured pathways to find career opportunities and to ensure that employers have access to a highly skilled workforce to meet critical labor market needs.

If you missed the virtual meeting, recordings of the opening/closing statements and the four breakout sessions can be found at

More About The New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities Initiative 

New Jersey’s Pathways to Career Opportunities Initiative will position the state to recover from this public health and economic crisis by building strong industry-driven education and training pathways that will be the foundation of the state’s economy for years to come; developing a skilled workforce that can adapt to the changing economy; and providing adults the opportunity to obtain new skills and careers.

This will be done through ten Centers of Workforce Innovation for career areas in the following industry clusters: (1) health services; (2) technology and innovation; (3) infrastructure and energy; and (4) manufacturing and supply chain management. These Centers of Workforce Innovation will build pathways with aligned curriculum shared across educational partners to serve the learning lifespan of students and workers.


About the New Jersey Council of County Colleges  

The New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC) was created in 1989 to support and promote New Jersey’s 18 Community Colleges that now enroll more than 300,000 people each year in credit, non-credit, and workforce development courses at more than 70 campuses throughout the state. More than 200,000 students – more than half of all undergraduate students in public colleges and universities in the state – are enrolled at New Jersey’s Community Colleges. The Community Colleges also enroll nearly 100,000 students in non-credit programs and partner with thousands of businesses to meet their training and workforce needs.

The primary goal of New Jersey’s 18 Community Colleges is to meet the ever-changing educational needs of our great state’s residents. Today, through more than 1,700 degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit courses and customized workforce training programs, New Jersey Community Colleges are helping more students than ever. No matter if they are seeking to transfer into a four-year college or university, complete a program and move directly into a career of choice, use professional development opportunities to advance within a field or move into another one, pursue a personal interest via the classroom or enjoy public art, music, theater, lecture, cultural, and sports offerings, New Jersey’s Community Colleges are here to serve.

To learn more about NJCCC and New Jersey’s Community Colleges, go to Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube to learn more about our latest programs and initiatives.

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About NJCCC:

New Jersey’s 18 agile and innovative Community Colleges are prepared to lead in the response to and recovery from this public health and economic crisis and to secure a brighter future for all New Jerseyans. The New Jersey Council of County Colleges provides statewide leadership for the advancement of New Jersey Community Colleges, performs coordinating responsibilities as required by law, and coordinates statewide efforts to build a skilled workforce and improve student success. We encourage you to visit our website at