Getting an education has never been more important – or more difficult – than right now. The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted learning across the spectrum – from primary and secondary schools to institutions of higher education. The combination of increased necessity with worsening logistics has created a unique set of challenges for educators and administrators at every level. The individuals listed here have proven themselves to be ready for those challenges.
Readers should see a variety of skillsets and expertise among these profiles, reflecting the continuing need to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, to redress historical inequities and meet the needs of the state’s important economic actors. So the list is weighted toward those working in health care contexts, in underserved communities and in vocational settings.
Fortunately, New Jersey is home to this diverse collection of experts. As education evolved along with the economy, these individuals will ensure that the next generation – and the one after that – will be equipped to move the state forward. They are producing new health care professionals to meet serious medical needs. They are ensuring that communities of color will be better able to participate in the economic growth most business leaders expect at least over the medium term. And they are imparting skills that will enhance the trades we all depend upon to make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
So keep that in mind as you read these profiles and let us know what you think about the choices represented here. This list may be the most important such feature NJBIZ publishes because the individuals you meet will quite literally shape the future.
As always, the top 10 honorees are listed in numerical order; the remainder are listed alphabetically.
NJCCVTS Executive Director Jackie Burke is on this year’s list:
Burke became executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational–Technical Schools in July 2021. Under her tenure, 15 county vocational-technical schools have used grant money to move forward with construction projects that support new and enhanced career programs, including a brand-new building for Hunterdon County Vocational School District to accommodate hun-dreds more students and add programs in high-demand industries like electrical technology and manufacturing. This summer, six schools received second-round grant funding, a combined $37 million, to support newly proposed plans to add student seats for in-demand programs that fulfill the economic needs of the county and region. Burke’s priorities include cultivating partnerships that further strengthen the Career and Technical Education experience while helping New Jersey’s 21 county vocational-technical school districts do the same. Recent examples include a meeting she organized — with county vocational school representatives and employers in the Shore Builders Association — to create mutually beneficial partnerships providing opportunities for employers to help train students and build a pipeline of highly qualified candidates to join their industry, serve as guest speakers, and offer apprenticeship and job opportunities to students. Burke continues to work with New Jersey’s community colleges and the New Jersey Business &Industry Association on their Pathway and Skills Collaborative, which maps educational and training steps for multiple in-demand career pathways from high school to community colleges and beyond.
To view the full list, visit NJBIZ.