If New Jersey’s public leaders, education officials and businesses want to stem the exodus of young adults from the state, they need to start working together at an unprecedented level.
That means better training, more internships and affordable college and education costs.
If this doesn’t occur, the state will continue to watch its young adults leave at an astonishing rate. From 2007 to 2016, the Garden State has experienced a net loss of 183,591 residents ages 18 to 34, according to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
This loss of future families, workers and leaders, which will undermine our ability to compete for new businesses, led the NJBIA to create a task force to search for answers.
The task force, now two years old, has suggested more than a dozen potential actions. One recommendation led to a $350 million investment to expand career and technical education. The money will be used to offer more vocational and technical classes; as a result, more of the roughly 17,000 students now being turned away for career training will get the education they seek.
Another $50 million will help expand the offerings at New Jersey community colleges.
Education and training are a big part of keeping people from leaving the state, and this funding should help. But there are other things we should be doing.
Several recommendations encouraged businesses to get more involved by creating training programs for students. Apprenticeship and intern programs are valuable ways to connect with the next generation of workers. Business leaders should also invest more in career coaching.
Above all, education must be affordable, and right now, in New Jersey, it’s not. The state has the fourth-highest tuition and fees in the country. That issue is a huge factor in driving students to get their college education elsewhere. And as we’ve seen, once they move, it’s harder to get them to come back.
While not mentioned in the report, our high cost of K-12 education is also a factor. New Jersey spends $30 billion a year on K-12 education, with half of that coming from our taxes. It’s time we seriously look at regionalizing our school districts.
Reversing this exodus will take time and involve hard choices, but action is needed now.