ApprenticeIT and Domain Computer Services team members at Sansone atuo in Avenel, where Governor Murphy announced that the Cranbury-based company along with six other institutions would receive $2.8 million in grants for apprenticeship programs. 

A Cranbury-based company will benefit from the governor’s signing of a bill that will provide $2.8 million for apprenticeship grants to business and colleges.

The funds awarded to seven institutions, were announced at a press conference in Avenel on Feb. 11, are meant to support training programs that will employ 480 new apprentices within the next 12 months, according to the Governor’s Office.

The grants will be used to start or expand apprenticeship programs at businesses or colleges that train machinists, tradesmen, auto technicians, medical and lab technicians and individuals in other fields, while earning $15 per hour.

“Apprenticeships build a pipeline of skilled workers, create a viable career pathway for students, and allow businesses to remain competitive and thrive,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “We know that this investment in a stronger, fairer economy is good for everyone.”

Program funding comes from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Apprenticeship in Nontraditional Sectors competitive grant announced last fall.

ApprenticeIT, at 1 Corporate Drive in Cranbury, will receive $169,290. Others receiving grants are Employers Association of NJ, Livingston, $24,000; Interplex, Northvale, $93,910; Montclair State University, Montclair, $523,280; NJMEP, $596,000, Cedar Knolls; NJ Community College Consortium, Trenton, $983,825; and Motors Management Corp, Avenel, $440,000, which includes Sansone Auto Mall where the press conference was held.

Apprenticeship grants

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy discusses the apprenticeship grant program on Feb. 11 during an event at Sansone’s auto location in Avenel. Approximately $2.8 million was awarded to seven institutions, including a Cranbury-based business, to provide or expand apprenticeship programs. 

The grant recipients cover a range of skill sets including human resources, information technology, automobile mechanic, machinist and manufacturing, to name a few. 

“Creating different pathways for professional development is critically important and reaffirms our commitment to helping businesses and their employees succeed,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex. “This unique partnership invests in our workers and businesses and will help to promote a strong economy.”

ApprenticeIT president Rashaad Bajwa said the grant money will be used to help expand the number of available information technology apprenticeships offered. ApprenticeIT is a workforce development program created by Domain Computer Services, which Bajwa also oversees.

He said the program currently has between 10-15 apprentices, but hopes to be able to expand that to 50 over the next year.

“In IT, we have a negative unemployment rate,” Bajwa said on Thursday. “There’s not enough skilled people for the jobs that are available.”

Through the apprenticeship program, Bajwa said his company will continue to pay individuals $15 hour as they receive on-the-job training over several months to acquire the skills necessary to become an IT professional.

ApprenticeIT works with Mercer and Middlesex county colleges, too, so the apprentices can earn an associate degree and then a certification from the New Jersey Department of Labor to help prove they are qualified for employment.

“We are providing on-the-job skills training through the program to create a farm system in the state,” Bajwa said. “One of the biggest issues we have in the IT industry is a lack of local IT people. But, the reality is we have a great bunch of potential local talent in our backyard. These programs allow us to build the skills and talent in our backyard instead of going to a foreign country.”

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Christopher Lang is a freelance correspondent for MonroeNow. Previously he was part of The Record-USA Today Network and served as an editor for a decade at NJMG.