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Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty and Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green to create the Back to Work NJ program to stimulate job growth by allowing unemployed New Jerseyans to receive workplace training from a potential employer was released Wednesday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3584), which was approved by a vote of 8-2-2, is a centerpiece of the Democratic legislative effort to create jobs and reinvigorate New Jersey’s economy.

“This innovative program will allow out-of-work New Jerseyans to develop the new skills they need and keep them tethered to the workforce even in the face of unemployment,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “It’s just the kind of program we need to tackle this recession and help workers and businesses alike to jumpstart our economy and move our state forward.”

The sponsors noted the “Back to Work NJ” program can also be viewed as an economic development tool for businesses.

“An employer that may not be able to take on an additional salary but expects to be able to soon would be able to hire a person through this program, provide them their training over the course of a few weeks and maybe bring the employee on full-time,” said Cryan (D-Union). “This is a program that truly both creates jobs and sparks economic growth.”

“We need innovative programs like this to help workers and businesses emerge strong from this economy,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “This program is so exciting because it gives working class New Jerseyans an opportunity to get hands-on training that can improve their job skills and make themselves more attractive to potential employers. That’s especially vital in this economy.”

The legislation is based on the successful Georgia Work$ program.

Georgia Work$ is a Georgia Department of Labor initiative that allows unemployed job seekers who have registered for services to receive workplace training from a potential employer for a maximum of 24 hours per week for up to six weeks.

In Georgia, 36 percent of participants are hired within the first six weeks Beyond that, 6 percent found jobs in the next 90 days.

More than 11,000 different Georgia employers have participated.

“We know this approach works,” said Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “It benefits everyone, giving employers an opportunity to properly train potential employees and giving workers that chance to decide if the job is a good fit for them. If so, both workers and employees get off to a great start.”

Under the bill, the program would be established within the Division of Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance to allow an eligible participant who is receiving unemployment insurance benefits to receive workplace training from an eligible employer.

The bill provides that an eligible participant in the program may receive workplace training from an eligible employer for a maximum of 24 hours per week for up to six weeks.

The bill provides to an eligible participant, based upon his or her needs, up to $100 per week to help defray training related costs, including, but not limited to, transportation, clothing and child care.

The bill also requires that participation in the program be voluntary for all eligible participants and eligible employers.

Finally, the bill appropriates $10 million to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Of this amount appropriated, a sum not to exceed 2 percent of the appropriation is allocated to the department for costs associated with the administration of the program. The remainder of the appropriation is allocated among eligible participants of the program for the purposes of defraying the costs of workplace training.

The sponsors said the program itself should save the state millions of dollars in unemployment trust fund money by getting unemployed people back in paying jobs faster than they otherwise would have without the program.