County Community College has helped to develop an initiative with
community colleges throughout the state that will offer a new associate
in applied science degree in Technical Studies to apprentices in
the building and construction trades. The program, called New Jersey
Pathways Leading Apprentices to a College Education (NJPLACE), will
enable registered apprentices to gain up to 25 college credits based
on their training. Statewide, 196 students have already enrolled
in the program, with many additional students expected to begin
their studies in Fall, 2006.
NJPLACE was endorsed by Governor Jon S. Corzine at a Statehouse
press conference in March. According to Mark McCormick, MCCC acting
dean for Academic and Student Affairs, Mercer was on board from
the program’s inception. “NJPLACE is an example of workforce
development at its best – recognizing the value of work experience
and helping students build on it.” He adds that community
colleges are the ideal setting for the program because they offer
open access, convenience and affordability.
notes that a prospective student’s apprenticeship training
will be evaluated based on standardized criteria for workers from
participating New Jersey building and construction trade unions
including electricians, carpenters, iron workers, heat and frost
insulators, plumbers and pipefitters. “Depending on their
experience they may be awarded up to 25 credits, almost a full year
of credits towards their degree,” he said. Corporate and military
training will also be evaluated for college credit.
addition to taking general education courses in subjects such as
English composition, computers, the arts, history and sociology,
NJPLACE students will select additional courses to meet their particular
career objectives. “If an employee in construction wants to
take on a management role as a foreman or as a small business owner,
he or she could pursue a degree in construction or business management,”
McCormick explained. “If the goal is to further a career in
technology, he or she would take higher level computer courses.
Whatever their objectives are, we want to help students use the
skills they already have to expand their career options.”
the cooperation of all 19 of New Jersey’s community colleges
expected by the end of 2006, it will be possible for workers to
take courses at any one of the schools. “Workers could go
to school directly from a job site,” McCormick explained.
“If they changed job sites, they could continue their studies
at the college that is most convenient.” Under the program
union workers will be charged the in-county rate from any of the
community colleges they attend.
E. King, statewide NJPLACE director, knows all about the value of
community colleges. A “non-traditional” student, she
attended Mercer County Community College after having a family,
graduating with highest honors in 2000 with an A.A. in Humanities
and Social Science. A member of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor
Society, she continued her education at Rutgers, studying labor
relations for her B.A. and masters degrees in the School of Management
and Labor Relations.
recalls walking the paths at Mercer, seeing the banner, “Getting
There Starts Here,” and feeling like it was meant for her.
(Mercer also worked for her son Eric Nissenbaum ’02, former
president of the MCCC Student Government Association, who transferred
to Rutgers and graduated with a degree in Labor Relations in 2005.)
is a strong supporter of the program she helped develop. “NJPLACE
allows workers who wouldn’t normally pursue a college degree
a realistic way to earn it. It is based on the idea that job-related
skills are not an alternative to college, but rather a pathway to
a college degree.”
to King, workers’ reactions to NJPLACE have been consistently
positive. “When they realize they can do this, they are very
excited.” She is hopeful that with more than 5,000 apprentices
in the state, many will take advantage of this unique opportunity.
“New Jersey has the only statewide initiative in the country.”
congratulates the community colleges for their cooperative efforts.
“In the space of 15 months we have made great strides in implementing
this program. Both MCCC Acting President Tom Wilfrid and Dean McCormick
were integral by lending their expertise while we worked out the
academic equivalencies for apprenticeship training.”
details on Mercer’s program, contact the MCCC Business and
Technology Division at (609) 586-4800, ext. 3449, or visit Technical
Studies on the MCCC website.
Additional information is also available at the