The pandemic is reshaping NJ employment and job training
More than four months after it exploded, the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
While many Garden State businesses are slowly reopening, others continue to operate with employees working from home.
Carl Van Horn, a professor of public policy and director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, believes the trend will continue for the foreseeable future and could wind up becoming the new normal.
“What employers have learned is that many people can work very productively from home, maybe even more so because they’re not spending time commuting, they can have a better work-family balance,” he said.
He said the pandemic has created a whole new mindset that may become permanent for some.
“People get adjusted to the new pattern, they get adjusted to not taking public transit and working from their home, they make their offices at home comfortable and so on, again, this is for people that can do it.”
Rob Asaro-Angelo, the commissioner of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said as new work patterns take hold, job training will be altered to give Garden State residents the best opportunity to get the jobs of tomorrow.
“All kinds of technological inputs are going to be part of the new training to help people work remotely,” he said.
He noted the Labor Department has started expanding online job training and counseling and they’re working with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and “other parts of government about what jobs are next for workers and what we can do to work holistically to help them attain them.”
Angelo said the COVID-19 pandemic has already increased demand for workers in different fields, including transportation and logistics.
“There’s plenty of growth in different job sectors that didn’t even exist before, whether it be contact tracers, respiratory specialists — we’re reimagining and remolding some of our programs, putting our resources where they’re needed to train the workforce of the future,” he said.
Van Horn noted in many businesses the notion of having “face time” at the office is fading with remote work, aided by technology, becoming the new normal.
“Employers can know what the people are doing, managers are also better understanding how to manage people who are working remotely. I think it’s a very different environment,” he said.
Van Horn said because of the pandemic, one type of business that has taken a quantum leap is telemedicine.
“That doesn’t mean you can fix a broken arm through telemedicine,” he said. “But there’s many things you can do through telemedicine effectively, prescribe the proper remedies and medications and so on.”
He conceded some people simply cannot work remotely because of the nature of their jobs, some have childcare issues, and others may not have the technology to be able to do it.
“So it isn’t perfect at all, but I think what you’re going to find is that many people are going to opt for working from home if they can. This could become not only the new normal, but a comfortable new normal for many people.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com