We keep hearing about how there are thousands of available jobs in New Jersey because there are not enough skilled workers to fill them. Now a new program has been launched to help address the problem.

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development will provide more than $3 million to 223 businesses who employee more than 8,000 people in order to upgrade the workers' skills.

Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro Angelo said the “upskill” initiative will allow “both businesses and employees to grow in a variety of industries that are constantly innovating and ever changing.”

He explained grantees will each get between $18,000 and $250,000 and the grants must be matched by the businesses that receive them. The grant is not for hiring new employees. All the training must be for existing employees “who are ready to adapt to a new skill, or a new need you might have as a business," he said.

The skills can be basic or high-tech.

With New Jersey unemployment rate at a low 3.2%, Asaro Angelo said this program makes a lot of sense.

“Sometimes instead of having to fill a new job maybe you can get the same type of benefit for upskilling workers you currently have into one of those openings. It’s about career advancement, a career pipeline, a talent pipeline.”

He also said upskilling is also about “keeping the engine turning on your own business to keep it growing and to keep workers you already have. You don’t have to train new workers; you can just give them new skills to make them more valuable.”

Business interested in more information can send the Labor Department a letter of intent at upskill@dol.nj.gov.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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