(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Pamela Lampitt to help make women more competitive in the workforce and encourage financial stability among women was advanced by an Assembly committee on Monday.
The bill (A-3717) would establish the Women's Vocational Training Pilot Program in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) to promote the economic self-sufficiency of low-income women through increased participation in high-wage, high-demand occupations.
"Closing the gender wage gap begins with making sure that women receive equal pay for equal work, but another important factor is making sure women have the tools they need to compete in every industry," said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). "New Jersey's women already have the resilience and work ethic they need to succeed. This program will empower them with the right training and opportunities."
The purpose of the program is to improve the employability of women in nontraditional occupations through education and training. Under the bill, a nontraditional occupation is one in which women account for 25 percent or less of those employed in the field. Such occupations include: architecture, computer programming, engineering, trucking and construction.
The program would provide a pathway to a degree, industry-recognized certificate or credential in addition to apprenticeships, postsecondary training programs and permanent employment. Under the bill, employers and sponsors of registered apprenticeship programs who retain women in nontraditional occupations for more than six months would be eligible for incentives.
"By providing access to child care services and mentorship, this program will address some of the obstacles specific to women that are often barriers to entering some of the highest-paying occupations," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This legislation will open the door to more career possibilities for women in New Jersey and serve as a road to greater economic empowerment."
"Expanding women's access to career training is about more than job readiness. It's about making sure that women can create a better life for themselves and their children," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington), chair of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. "Taking action to ensure women's competitiveness in the workforce, and consequently, their financial security, will benefit them and New Jersey's overall economy tremendously."
The bill provides that the commissioner of LWD shall annually submit to the governor and to the legislature a report detailing the progress and results of the pilot program and any recommendations on whether the program should be continued. The pilot program expires after submission of the fifth annual report under the bill but may be extended beyond its expiration based on the recommendation of the commissioner.
The measure was advanced by the Assembly Labor Committee.