Nearly 4 in 10 unemployed people in New Jersey have been looking for jobs for more than 27 weeks, and many of these long-term unemployed residents are in their late 40s and older.

Despite their qualifications, it can be hard for older, unemployed workers to land new jobs. That's why a new initiative is offering employers an incentive to give these workers a chance: money.

Using federal grants, New Start Reconnect offers businesses in the state up to $10,000 for every long-term unemployed job seeker they hire from the New Start Career Network.

"With this type of incentive, we may be able to get some employers to get past the stigma of long-term unemployment and age, and decide to let these guys get a foot in the door," Maria Heidkamp, the Network's director.

The network was launched in October 2015. It is based at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, with more than 900 individuals enrolled in the program.

"They're highly-educated, highly-skilled job seekers, who seem to have fallen into this trap of long-term unemployment, maybe combined with age discrimination," Heidkamp said.

Some are out of the workforce for as long as two years.

"That puts them in a very difficult situation when they're trying to sell an employer on hiring them," Heidkamp explained.

Participation in the program is allowed for any New Jersey business of any size within the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and information technology industries. In return, the employers must offer full-time positions (30 hours per week or more) that last beyond the six-month reimbursement period and pay at least $14 an hour.

The funding comes from federal grants through NJCCC's Ready to Work New Jersey program.

Heidkamp is hopeful the incentive for employers simply helps these New Jerseyans get an opportunity.

"While New Jersey's economy has improved in recent months, the state continues to have one of the highest rates of long-term unemployment in the nation," she said.

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