ELIZABETH, NJ – Esteven Maas needed a job. “I was out of work with a wife and two children, and it was scary. I was sending out resumes, then I got this email saying, ‘Learn to be a machinist.’ I thought, ‘Wow! that is related to what I was doing.’”

He entered the manufacturing program at Union County and had a job waiting for him at New Jersey Precision Technologies in Mountainside when he finished.  

Maas told his story at the statewide launch of Senator Robert Menendez’s Jersey Jobs Tour May 22 at Union County College’s Center of Economic and Workforce Development.  The senator is introducing the Better Education and Skills Training (BEST) for America’s Workforce Act. It would create a competitive $1 billion tax-credit program to encourage job training partnerships between local colleges and businesses to equip workers with skills that a match a community needs. It would also provide local businesses that train and hire long-term unemployed workers up to $4000 in tax credits for the tuition cost at a community college for each job filled that requires a specific certificate or other training credential.

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It is a win-win for both employers and job seekers, according to the senator. He stated that while 7 million are looking for work, there are 5.5 million jobs that are unfilled because employers cannot find workers with the required skills. He further stated that 45 percent of small businesses reported difficulty finding qualified applicants. “The problem is that employers are struggling to find workers who have the right skills,” said the senator.

Citing the increasing global competition, Menendez said that the U. S. has decreased 6 percent in worldwide economic output since 1980, while China’s economic output has risen to 14 percent.  “In today’s economy, competition is critical.”

The issue may be national, but the solution is local and found by working with local businesses and college to identify the community’s needs and provide the training to fill those high skill jobs, said Menendez. “If we want to say Made in America, we have to help to make them (businesses) competitive.”

Agreed Bob Tarantino, CEO of New Jersey Precision Technologies, who, in addition to Maas, hired a second UCC grad Ivette Maiavѐ. “The program that the senator is creating is important for the industry, and it is really important in putting people back to work.”