EDISON – Middlesex County College (MCC) automotive students will benefit from a new grant program announced by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Feb. 11. The announcement was made at Sansone Auto Group in Avenel, which was awarded $440,000 to pay apprentices from MCC and other programs as they learn auto repair.
“Make no mistake: as cars get more technologically advanced, the workforce needed to keep them on the road must become more advanced as well,” Murphy said in a statement provided by the college.
Thom Sabol, chairperson of the Engineering Technologies Department at MCC, is excited about the opportunities for students.
“This is a marvelous program that benefits both the student and the dealership,” he said in the statement. “The students will earn $15 per hour working on vehicles at Sansone, under the guidance of skilled technicians. Vehicles today are very sophisticated and complex, and there is an incredible shortage of auto repair personnel. Hopefully, this program will help remedy that.”
Funding comes from the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Growing Apprenticeship in Nontraditional Sectors (GAINS) competitive grant, which was announced last fall. The GAINS program promotes the creation and expansion of U.S. Labor Department-approved Registered Apprenticeship programs that drive economic development and create paths to better-paying careers and advanced industry credentials. The grant program also promotes diversity in Registered Apprenticeship programs by encouraging the hiring of underrepresented groups such as veterans, people with disabilities, and ex-offenders, according to the statement.
John Pugliese, Sansone’s chief executive officer, said recruiting a talented workforce is paramount.
“Over the next several years it is anticipated that New Jersey could experience a shortage of up to 25,000 technicians as current technicians retire and the next generation gravitates to other occupations,” he said in the statement. “The GAINS program will allow us to expand our apprenticeship program to various vocational high schools and community colleges. With this program, each apprentice will have the opportunity to become a Master Technician and have a meaningful and rewarding career.”
At present, four students are currently working at Sansone, and Sabol anticipates more will follow.
MCC’s automotive instructor, Sara Heller, agreed.
“I am extremely excited about the opportunities for our students,” she said in the statement. “The relationship between MCC’s automotive technology program and Sansone creates unparalleled opportunities for both.”