New Jersey lawmakers are seeking to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars for upgrades to vocational-technical schools, citing a statewide shortage of middle-skilled workers.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and State Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, proposed Tuesday placing a major bond issue on the November 2018 ballot that if approved would allow for the construction and expansion of New Jersey’s county vocational-technical schools. The senators also announced the creation of a bipartisan Legislative Manufacturing Caucus that they hope makes development of a vocational-technical bond referendum for next year a top priority.

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney. Office of Senate President Steve Sweeney

“Our excellent county vocational-technical schools were forced to turn away 15,500 qualified applicants last year, even though our increasingly high-tech employers have job vacancies they cannot fill due to a shortage of middle-skilled workers,’ said Senator Sweeney in a press conference Tuesday. “We need to emphasize public-private partnerships that match up our county vo-tech programs with the needs of employers.”

Senator Gordon said the Manufacturing Caucus is scheduled to meet next month with the goal of forming a legislative package on the 2018 bond issue for consideration in December. Lawmakers didn’t specify how much would be bonded, but indicated it probably would number a few hundred million dollars.

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