As many New Jersey residents will tell you, the differences between the northern and southern halves of the state are undeniable. This contrast is perhaps most obvious in the retail and hospitality sectors.
While northern New Jersey is famous for its vast retail options and entertainment venues, it may experience only a small taste of seasonality but southern New Jersey practically thrives in it, emphasizing shore towns, dining options and the nightlife of Atlantic City. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJLWD) recognized this unique divide and in May of 2013, the first regionally-focused Talent Network was developed.
Since their launch in 2011, all seven of New Jersey’s Talent Networks have received the question “What exactly is a Talent Network?” so frequently that there is now an official link to answer the question! Here it is: http://www.jobs4jersey.com/toolkit/talent/
In short, a Talent Network can be described as an organization that functions to connect employers, job seekers, training providers/educators and other state services within each of their respective sectors.
Talent Networks are designated to industry clusters that have been identified by the state as ones that are essential to the growth of New Jersey’s economy. Although each individual Talent Network has developed its own formula to complete its mission, they all strive towards the same ultimate goals: understanding employer needs, creating meaningful partnerships and positively impacting New Jersey’s workforce.
The Retail, Hospitality, & Tourism Talent Network of North Jersey (RHT North), based at Fairleigh Dickinson University, handles Middlesex County and above. The Retail, Hospitality, & Tourism Talent Network of South Jersey (RHT South), housed at Stockton University, takes on Mercer and Monmouth Counties and below.
This delegation allows both RHT North and RHT South to focus on each area’s needs more intricately.
The RHT North and South Talent Networks, led by directors Sandra Bleckman and Caitlyn Weiss, have had many successes since their inception. Among these are countless career fairs, jobseeker workshops, professional networking events and two annual Industry Weeks.
Industry Week is a full week jam-packed with events dedicated to industry awareness and recognition of industry leaders, such as Marilou Halverson, President of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association (NJRHA). Each year, Industry Week is acknowledged by Governor Chris Christie with a signed proclamation declaring them a statewide event. In 2014, the RHT Talent Networks were awarded the title “Professional Service Organization of the Year” by the NJRHA.
Most recently, the Retail, Hospitality, & Tourism Talent Network (RHTTN) has emphasized their focus on employer needs, the very core of the Talent Network’s mission, by hosting employer roundtables. Employers from retail, restaurants, casinos, hotels and other associations were invited to a guided discussion in which they were able to share their challenges, concerns and—perhaps most importantly—their needs from their current and future employees.
Unanimously, employers agreed that there is a significant lack of soft skills in many incumbent or perspective employees. Many employers mentioned a lack of communication skills, work ethic or an overall misunderstanding of what hospitality truly is.
RHTTN believes these conversations are the gateway to a more successful workforce. This information can be brought back to training providers or educators so that job seekers have the opportunity to gain the skills that employers have expressed there is a real-time demand for.
As RHTTN embarks on its third year in operation, an even higher priority is being placed on these invaluable partnerships with employers. We believe it is the best practice to continue to listen to the needs of employers in order to properly guide job seekers to spend their time, money and other resources on the programs that will equip them with up to date and valuable skill sets.
RHTTN also plans to continue the relationship with those looking for jobs through social media, live events and newsletters in order to relay this pertinent information to them.
Overall, RHT North and RHT South function symbiotically—and sometimes as one unit—as they work toward one common goal. The division of territories does not dilute efforts, but instead enhances them, allowing the North and South divisions to function as the specialists they are intended to be.
RHTTN looks forward to continuing their diligent work to enhance communication throughout the state, which will ultimately lead to a smarter, stronger, more rewarding workforce for both employers and job seekers alike.
To become a part of the conversation, please email RHTTNNJ@gmail.com.
Aubrianna Fouts holds her first degree in English and is currently completing her B.A. in Psychology at Stockton University. She plans to pursue these studies to a doctorate level. She is the proofreading editor of psychology novel Live Beyond Your Dreams by Riana Milne and has several published works of her own, including poetry and creative non-fiction. In her free time she enjoys freelance editing and writing.