Higher education and business are "stacking the deck" in New Jersey thanks to the Rowan Work & Learn Consortium, a new initiative unveiled at a Statehouse press conference on Tuesday, Oct. 10, that addresses college affordability while meeting employment demands within the local job market.
Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) and Rowan University are working in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, along with Gloucester County's Chamber of Commerce, Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Economic Development and the Gloucester County Institute of Technology to launch this new, customizable approach to higher education that produces graduates ready to be hired within high-demand positions. Bringing together vocational schools, county colleges, four-year universities and local businesses, State Senate President Steve Sweeney plans to introduce legislation that would establish programs similar to Work & Learn. The Consortium aligns with the "65 by 25" campaign, increasing the percentage of those within the State's workforce who have a post-secondary degree by 2025.
"This unique and creative partnership serves as a model for how our community colleges should be working with our state institutions to create alternative pathways for students," said Sweeney. "It addresses several critical issues, including the affordability of a college education, access to a four-year degree program, vocational skills and workforce preparation. This approach is consistent with our commitment to vocational education and workforce development and can serve as a model for others in New Jersey."
The Rowan Work & Learn Consortium was created in direct response to the State's campaign to accelerate the pace of establishing a skilled labor workforce for employment positions needing to be filled within New Jersey. The areas to be addressed include: Advanced Manufacturing; Financial Services; Transportation, Logistics & Distribution; Biopharmaceutical Life Sciences; Construction Management; Health Care; and Hospitality, Retail & Tourism.
Rowan Work & Learn represents the first packaged consortium between a two-year college and a four-year university in the state of New Jersey. What makes this initiative distinct is the concept of two partnering, higher-education institutions stacking industry-valued credentials to allow students to become marketable faster and provide flexibility for "stop out" points if necessary. Each academic year completed will result in credentials verified by industry leaders as well as the Workforce Development Board of Gloucester County and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. All academic paths included in the Consortium will support an industry-specific certification, an associate degree, a certificate of undergraduate study and culminate in a bachelor's degree.
"The Rowan Work & Learn Consortium will not only help to prepare our graduates with the education, experience and credentials they need to enter a high-demand field, but it will strengthen our local workforce by making it easier and more rewarding for our talented students to remain in the state after graduation," stated RCGC President Frederick Keating.
This new program offers a perfect opportunity for both traditional and non-traditional students alike. Traditional college students benefit from accumulating industry-valued credentials enabling them to begin working within their desired career long before graduation. High school students, who may have previously considered going directly into the workforce after graduation and not attending college, can now pursue programs in an industry with future educational growth. Non-traditional students can take advantage of prior learning assessments that award college credit for previous work experience. Paid internship opportunities further prepare students to work within their chosen field.
RCGC will provide the first two years of coursework, with the second two supplied by Rowan University. All of the Work & Learn courses will be offered on RCGC's campus or online. An advisor assigned to work with the students will ensure they remain on the right academic path and are placed in the internship that best prepares them for their future career.
For more information about the Rowan Work & Learn Consortium, visit RCGC.edu/WorkandLearn.
Rowan College at Gloucester County is located at 1400 Tanyard Road in Deptford, just off Exit 56 of Route 55.