Trenton will have more quality educational opportunities and improved educational attainment for students in grades pre-K - 12, improving the performance of Trenton’s full range of educational institutions, including public, private and charter schools
Trenton’s adult learners also face challenges in preparing for and accessing jobs. Often, adult learners did not receive a Pre-K through 12 education that equips them with the foundational workforce skills necessary to excel in the workplace. Lack of access to relevant training programs, as well as basic learning tools (e.g., internet access), also significantly limit opportunities for adult learners and job seekers in Trenton to pursue quality jobs. Further, there is no current relevant pipeline to local and regional employers. A very limited linkage exists between Trenton's education institutions and local and regional businesses, hindering the creation of training initiatives that could teach the skills needed by employers.
For Trenton to meet the challenges of an increasingly competitive, globalized and technology-driven economy, workforce stakeholders and the City of Trenton along with Mercer County must invest significantly in educating and training its current and future workforce. To be effective, these investments must align squarely with the needs of local and regional businesses and industries. A proposed Workforce Task Force should analyze data and work closely with relevant employers to understand their hiring and training needs and to identify skills gaps that can be addressed through targeted demand-driven workforce training investments.
As identified in the Economic Development Report, the following industries experienced the largest growth in employment in the combined Mercer/Bucks area from 2002 to 2014 (growth indicated in parentheses):
Management of Companies and Enterprises (139%)
Health Care and Social Assistance (50%)
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation (38%)
Accommodation and Food Services (33%)
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (21%)
Given their high employment growth rates, these are the industries which Trenton is best positioned to exploit by capturing a portion of this growth and employment for residents – and therefore, workforce training investments should be targeted towards growth industries. Moreover, as the City works to advance economic development in the downtown, neighborhood commercial centers, and in its industrial areas, workforce development strategies must be coordinated with economic development efforts.
The recommendations outlined in this Report create the foundation from which Trenton can build this dynamic, demand-driven workforce system. However, for these efforts to be successful, the City in partnership with the County must first establish a coordinated workforce system with relevant community partners working together, and then target its investments to growing industries.
Education reform at the Pre-K through 12 levels alone is insufficient to achieve resident’s community-driven vision. There are current generations of Trentonians who are not properly trained for a modern workforce. Moreover, the economy is constantly changing, and there will always be a need to retrain residents to meet new economic demands. For that reason, the City of Trenton must work with the County to diligently improve its workforce development system and to coordinate with the variety of workforce development providers in the region. This effort must be targeted at reaching people and increasing access to a wider range of quality jobs and high-demand career pathways for Trenton’s adult population, including those who have been previously involved in the criminal justice system.