South Jersey’s higher-ed sector at the forefront of workforce readiness

South Jersey’s higher-ed sector at the forefront of workforce readiness

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read March 2020 — Education affordability, talent retention and the demographic change of fewer students going onto college are some of the challenges facing the industry. Educational institutions in South Jersey and the state government are placing a particular focus on affordability and workforce readiness. 

 Many universities and colleges now see that workforce development and curriculum updates are necessary to meet the demands and needs of employers and the jobs of tomorrow. That is the case of the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors. Part of its mandate is to facilitate collaboration between Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University in the development of curricula and programs related to health sciences. 


“Presently, we are working together to respond to projected employment growth in healthcare professions,” said Dana Redd, CEO of the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors, in an interview with Invest:. “Some of the initiatives that we have launched include a Medical Assistant workforce development and training program for graduating high-school students from Camden’s traditional public schools.”


Another projected demand is the increased need for healthcare providers to assist individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related disorders. In anticipation, the board launched the Alzheimer’s Navigator Program in 2017. “The curriculum is taught by Camden County College. Inspired by the Patient Navigation model in oncology, Alzheimer’s Journey Coordinators aim to improve access to care and treatment for people with Alzheimer’s,” Redd said.


A challenge not only affecting South Jersey but the whole country is declining enrollment rates. Data from the State of New Jersey’s Office of the Secretary of Higher Education shows that the overall number of people attending higher education institutions in the state slightly declined over the last decade.


Unlike some universities that are struggling with declining enrollment, Rowan University doubled enrollment in the past 10 years to 19,600. During that time, the university transformed from a well-regarded regional university to a nationally ranked, Carnegie-classified R2 research university. According to Ali A. Houshmand, President of Rowan University, the STEM fields and businesses are the areas seeing the greatest growth. “We built new facilities for our colleges of engineering and business three years ago and doubled enrollment in their programs,” he said.


“Another growth area is our medical schools. We are one of only three institutions in the nation to offer both M.D. and D.O. medical degrees. Our commitment to medical education is important given the nation’s growing physician shortage,” Houshmand stated in an interview with Invest:.


Community colleges also play a key role in the workforce development of any community. In the southern New Jersey region, Camden County College (CCC) offers the most certification programs. According to CCC’s President Donald Borden there is great demand for machinists in the region. “Companies come to hire them as soon as they become proficient,” Borden told the Invest: team. 


“Students trained in robotics, automobile tech and optometry all find work after graduating. We offer some of those programs that are not traditionally seen as higher ed, but they have been in very high demand,” Borden said. Business and education and criminal justice are also in-demand programs at CCC. 


To fulfill the needs of the employers and provide access to education for all students, it is imperative that colleges, universities and government provide initiatives for education affordability. In February 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the “Garden State Guarantee,” which is a $50 million investment in four-year senior public colleges and universities through his proposed FY2021 budget that would allow all eligible New Jersey undergraduate students to attend any public college or university in the state tuition-free for two years.


“We know students drop out of college — or worse, rule it out as an option for them — because they believe the price tag is unaffordable. After more than a decade of decreased state investments in higher education, our administration’s innovative plan creates a path for broader college affordability,” Gov. Murphy said in a written statement. “This complementary program underscores New Jersey’s continued commitment to tuition-free community college. We remain laser-focused on retaining in-state talent through our Jobs NJ initiative and expanding opportunities for low-income communities and communities of color.”

The program complements similar existing efforts at William Paterson University, Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-Newark, and New Jersey City University. According to the “Garden State Guarantee” official press release, the guarantee builds on existing state programs to make college affordable, including financial aid provided to students through the Community College Opportunity Grant, Tuition Aid Grants and New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarships. 


To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors: 

Camden County College: 

Rowan University:

State of New Jersey: 



Survey highlights Camden’s economic progress

Survey highlights Camden’s economic progress

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read January 2020 — What once was the poorest city in the nation is now showing significant advances as a result of its renaissance efforts. Camden City is showing positive trends in key economic areas, according to a recent survey from the U.S. Census Bureau,  using data derived from the American Community Survey (ACS).   


The survey data showed significant improvements in areas such as poverty, educational attainment, employment and unemployment. 

“Change doesn’t happen overnight, but in findings like these we are seeing the very real snowballing effect of progressive policies put into place to better the lives of residents in the City,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr in a press release.

The surge in educational attainment among 18-24-year olds is one of the significant trends Camden has seen during the last decade. The most recent estimate shows the population achieving high school or higher levels of education is now at 83.3 percent. From 2006 to 2010, approximately 68 percent of young adults in the city had graduated high school, earned their G.E.D., attended some college, or received an associate’s, bachelor’s or advanced degree. 

“Ensuring all of our students and families are attaining a quality education and gaining access to advanced educational opportunities is our objective. This report underscores the progress being made in the classroom and throughout our district,” Superintendent Katrina McCombs said in a press release.

The survey also showed that the number of residents employed has increased by more than 2,500 and the number of unemployed residents dropped from over 7,700 to less than 3,900.  According to city data, the unemployment rate over the five years ending in 2018 was 12.6%, which represents a big decline from the 24.4 percent reported from 2009 to 2013.   

Camden’s “eds and meds” sector, which employs almost 40% of the Camden workforce, has also been key to the city’s revitalization. Over $1 billion has been invested in the “eds and meds” sector, with an additional $175 million planned. Camden is home to five eds and meds institutions, leading research and innovative efforts throughout the region and the national and international community. 

To support local businesses and residents, workforce initiatives like private initiative Camden Works, launched in 2019, have been forged to ensure Camden continues its growth path. The employment training and placement program is designed to leverage resources from local entities to provide training, education and placement.

“Unparalleled collaboration and a holistic approach to revitalization is resulting in real progress in Camden,” said Camden Mayor Francisco Moran in a press release. “The data indicates that Camden is making substantial gains as it relates to reducing poverty, improving academic outcomes and increasing employment prospects. This kind of sustained progress has not been witnessed in decades.  These are all positive signs for our residents and indicators that the quality of life continues to improve.” 

The ACS produces estimates of selected population characteristics for one- and five-year periods. Five-year estimates include data aggregated over a 60-month period and attempt to show the characteristics of the city over that entire stretch.  

To learn more, visit: 


Spotlight on: James Michael Burkett, President, Florida Technical College

Spotlight on: James Michael Burkett, President, Florida Technical College

By: Yolanda Rivas

Since 1982, Florida Technical College (FTC) has been meeting the needs of students and the job marketplace. At times of low unemployment rates across the nation, educational institutions like FTC play a significant role in providing students the necessary skills businesses are looking for. In an interview with Invest: Orlando, FTC’s President James Michael Burkett discussed the most in-demand programs and how they support the local workforce.

What differentiates Florida Technical College from other educational institutions in the area?


We support people who want to acquire technical job skills that can get them into the job market more quickly. That is one of our main advantages. Our locations in Central Florida have seen unprecedented growth, particularly in our hospitality program because many of the positions in these fields require the technical skills we help students acquire, rather than a traditional four-year degree. Another big advantage for the school is our Spanish language vocational and technical programs. These programs have allowed us to assist the Spanish-speaking population that has migrated to Central Florida over the last few years.

What are some of your efforts to attract and retain talent in Orlando?

We partner with several chambers to make sure that employers in the area understand what we have to offer. That has been a great advantage to both students and employers. We are seeing unprecedentedly low unemployment rates and one of the main challenges employers are facing is finding qualified talent. We communicate with local businesses from different industries to ensure our students have the skills they need. 

Which Florida Technical College programs are seeing the most growth?

Electrical has been one of the fastest-growing programs at Florida Technical College. We have been able to scale that program quickly to meet demand and by the beginning of next year it will be available at most of our campuses. Construction trades and the Spanish language vocational programs also have been areas of growth for us and we expect that to continue in 2020. There is also a big need for culinary skills and we are expanding our capacity for that program as well. With numerous restaurants and hotels opening in the region, we are looking to provide the talent pipeline they need.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Florida Technical College:

Philly Leads in ‘Taking Care of Business’

Philly Leads in ‘Taking Care of Business’

By: Sara Warden


In NBC’s 2019 ranking of Top States for Business, Pennsylvania landed a lacklustre 28th position – lower than half way down the poll for business friendliness in the country. The state was in 39th place in terms of economy, 32nd in quality of life and 31st in workforce. But there is potential. The state ranked ninth in terms of education and sixth in access to capital. The Philadelphia authorities are grabbing onto these roots and nurturing them into shoots with the new PHL Taking Care of Business Initiative.


“This new investment will have a big impact on neighborhoods all across our city by providing businesses and neighborhoods beyond Center City with the resources they need to succeed and to thrive,” Mayor Jim Kenney said to the Philadelphia Tribune. “Reducing blight not only makes our city more beautiful but it helps small businesses — especially minority and women-owned businesses — attract shoppers and employees. When small businesses succeed, our economy grows stronger.”

The program was pioneered by city Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, with the goal of reducing blight while creating 300 jobs for local residents – that’s 30 part-time employees in each district who are paid $15 per hour. “We are committed to building a strong workforce and job market that will in turn help us attack poverty and crime to ensure inclusive growth across the city,” added Kenney.

But rather than making the employees public servants, they will instead be Cleaning Ambassadors, paid by the Commerce Department to Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), which will issue RFPs and/or contract with CDCs. “This program will pay workers a living wage and introduce them to workforce training that can lead to other professional opportunities and jobs. I strongly support PHL Taking Care of Business,” said Council President Darrell Clarke in a press release.

For initial costs related to the program, the city has now pledged $10 million to fund the initiative, which is a way to attract new business, improve conditions for existing companies and improve quality of life. “Strengthening our commercial corridors, which are the lifeblood of communities throughout my district and across the city, is essential to stabilizing our neighborhoods,” said Councilwoman Parker in a press release. “PHL Taking Care of Business will help ensure that every business corridor in the city, regardless of size or neighborhood, will be clean and attractive, allowing the businesses to focus more time on growing their enterprise. It will also help to change that awful characterization of our city as ‘Filthadelphia.’”

Several local business owners that are already part of the program’s pilot catchment area are delighted with the results. “Living on a busy street with lots of businesses, you always see trash on the street. Ever since the 9th District street cleaning team started, you definitely see a difference. I believe neighbors see the difference too. People walk around prouder and are more likely to speak up when they see people throwing trash on the ground,” said local resident Frank Huynh.

To learn more, visit:

Face Off: Education Updates to Keep Feeding Orlando’s Growing Job Market

Face Off: Education Updates to Keep Feeding Orlando’s Growing Job Market

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read November 2019— Orlando has ranked among the country’s fastest-growing job markets for several years and it is also ranked by Forbes as the No. 3 city for future job growth. To continue its recognition as a great job market, there is a need for qualified talent with the necessary skills for the jobs of tomorrow. Invest: Orlando recently spoke with leaders of two major colleges in the area: Grant Cornwell, president of Rollins College, and Georgia Lorenz, president of Seminole State College of Florida, to learn about the efforts to feed the local talent pipeline.

What academic programs are seeing the most demand?

Grant Cornwell: Overall, we’re seeing increasing demand for our future-proof brand of liberal arts education. In terms of majors, our most popular programs include biology, communication studies, psychology, and our three undergraduate business degrees: business management, international business, and social entrepreneurship. That last one, social entrepreneurship, is one of our fastest-growing majors, and it was the first program of its kind to earn accreditation from AACSB International, which is the gold standard for business education. It teaches students how to apply business skills and entrepreneurial thinking and action to tackle social and environmental problems around the world. That is very appealing to this generation of students who want the tools to solve some of the global challenges that they’re inheriting and who want to make a positive impact in their lives and careers. 

Georgia Lorenz: Healthcare in general is one of the fastest-growing areas. As the Central Florida region continues to grow, there is a need for an additional 1,000 bachelor’s degree-trained nurses each year for the next decade. Our bachelor’s degree in health sciences is also experiencing great demand because it prepares students for a variety of health-related careers. We also launched our hospitality management program in fall 2019, to meet the high demand for restaurant and hotel management professionals. In the area of technology, our mechatronics and robotics program continues to expand. We want our students to be able to adapt as the industry changes. In spring 2020, we’re going to start a new focus area in simulation, which is a huge industry in Central Florida. Another area of growth for us is cybersecurity, which leads to great job opportunities. 

What are you efforts to attract and retain talent in Orlando?

Georgia Lorenz: First and foremost, the tremendous population and economic growth in Orlando represents an incredible opportunity for our students and graduates. At Rollins, we’re preparing graduates who are not only uniquely prepared to thrive in this dynamic economy right away but are also ready to help Orlando reach even greater heights through lifelong leadership. Second, Orlando’s growth is providing our students more and more opportunities to put their ideas to work in the world. Every semester, our students gain professional experience through internships at some of the world’s most innovative companies and organizations right here in Central Florida — from ALDI and NASA to Universal and The Walt Disney Co. Rollins’ also boasts some of the best community-engagement programs and initiatives that you’ll find at any college anywhere in the country. Every single day, our students partner with local and national organizations to create positive change in our community. In the process, they not only learn the importance of engaged citizenship but also develop experience that will give them a competitive advantage in the job market.

Grant Cornwell: Research has shown that the better education ecosystem a region has, the more likely they are to attract new businesses and retain the businesses that are already in the area. Seminole State continues to work closely with Seminole County Public Schools to create pathways for our students throughout their school careers and into higher education. As the population and the business community grow, we will need more professionals in a number of industries. And we are making sure we provide the talent to these new and emerging areas to help with the social and economic infrastructure of Central Florida. We are using technological advances to serve our students more effectively. We’re always looking for new software or innovations to better serve our students. Every program at Seminole State has an advisory board, made up of local business leaders and faculty members, to ensure that we’re preparing our graduates for the jobs of tomorrow. We also prepare students with hands-on learning experiences through internships and work-based problem solving to give them real world experiences with the latest technologies before they graduate. That’s something that distinguishes a Seminole State educational experience from many other institutions.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Rollins College:

Seminole State College of Florida:


Charlotte Demographics Catalyze Office-Space Boom

Writer: Sara Warden

2 min read AUGUST 2019 – Charlotte is gaining more than 1,000 new residents a week, according to the 2017 Census. In the second quarter of 2019, Charlotte added 26,700 new jobs and kept unemployment down, at around 3.7% on the year. By 2050, another 1.8 million people and nearly 1 million more jobs will be added.

Research has shown that Charlotte is able to attract younger generations due to its affordability and quality of life. Cincinnati-based Growella conducted research on the friendliest cities for under-35s, measuring indicators such as entry-level job availability, time spent commuting and strength of paycheck, and Charlotte came out No. 5, with an A grade.

“With a growing tech workforce, a booming financial industry and a strong millennial growth rate, Charlotte is poised to be a forerunner of economic expansion not only in the Southeast but in the United States,” said real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield in a report on the city.

Charlotte ranked seventh in Growella’s research for strength of paycheck, which indicates how high salaries are compared with the cost of living. The city also boasts solid infrastructure, transport links and a dynamic nightlife. With characteristics that allow it to entice more of the young workforce, Charlotte is becoming a titan in attracting disruptive industries, such as tech and innovative financial services.

The predominant US tech hub is undoubtedly Silicon Valley in San Francisco. But it seems more and more startups are looking to more affordable cities that have favourable demographics. The frontrunner is Charlotte.

One company that decided to headquarter itself in Charlotte is SmartSky Networks, which aims to transform aviation using disruptive technologies. Another is Passport, a provider of digital parking software. MapAnything, Sitehands, PeraHealth and many others have also chosen Charlotte to lay down roots. This is all serving as a boon for the city’s real estate industry, and office space in particular.

At the end of the second quarter, Charlotte’s average rental rates increased 13% on the year, above markets such as San Jose, California, which saw an 11.8% rise and even the home of Silicon Valley, San Francisco, which saw a 9.4% increase.

But even though property is rapidly increasing in value, it is still far more affordable than many business hubs, making it a no-brainer investment opportunity for many forward-thinkers. “Rent as a percentage of household income is still substantially below the likes of much larger cities like Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Miami,” said Dave Welk, Director of Acquisitions of private equity real estate firm Origin Investments in an article written for the company.

Nearly 5.1 million square feet of office space is under construction in Charlotte, the majority in the Central Business District (CBD). Most recently, real estate investors The Spectrum Companies and Invesco teamed up to break ground on a 577,000-square-foot mixed-used development in Charlotte’s CBD that will eventually house two 11-story office buildings.

As demand drives up prices, existing assets are also selling for eye-watering amounts, with the top five transactions so far this year totaling $855 million.

“As space is leased and rental rates continue to rise, owners are expected to sell properties for record-high amounts as Charlotte demonstrates it is a viable and highly sought-after investment market,” said Cushman & Wakefield.