By Evan Cardin
New Jersey Commissioner of Labor, Harold Wirths, stopped by the College’s business department to speak with a group of eager young entrepreneurs on Wednesday, April 24. Despite the rough road he has had to endure since his appointment, Wirths’s message was clear: things are getting back on track in New Jersey.
In 2010, Wirths was tapped by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to bring fresh entrepreneurial skills to the Department of Labor. He spoke frankly about the mess he was met with upon his arrival.
“When I was brought in, we had just come off the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Wirths said. “Unemployment had reached 9.7 percent, and on any given day we were handing out about 250,000 unemployment checks.”
On top of rising unemployment, Wirths found himself head of an agency that was being attacked almost daily by fraudsters. In his first week, the department was hit by an organized crime effort to siphon $2 million out of taxpayer funds. Since then, Wirths has made it a personal goal to stamp out fraud at the department.
“I asked, ‘Why aren’t we using what the banks are using? We have 10 times the amount of money, why don’t we have the same fraud protection?’” Wirths said. With the installation of IP trackers, mining software and more, Wirths estimates he has stopped almost $232 million from leaving the Department of Labor. Wirths has also brought a philosophical change to the department. He is bringing training facilities and employers together so schools can begin teaching real job skills to their students.
“From now on we’re taking our limited training dollars and training people for jobs we know are available,” Wirths said. “Instead of using a shotgun approach and trying to get everybody back to work, we’re doing targeted projects with small groups, and we’ve been very successful.”
Wirths has spearheaded a technological revolution as well.
“We have created a website called jobs4jersey.com,” Wirths said. “It scours about 2,400 different websites for job openings.”
He’s extremely optimistic about the department’s refreshed online presence and has witnessed a huge surge in use from both applicants and employers.
“There are almost 200,000 résumés up on jobs4jersey.com,” Wirths said. “More importantly, I’ve had 5,700 employers choose to stay in N. J. and use our website to fill their openings.”
Wirths continues to cut waste and has many more ideas to implement. But through all the changes he has administered, he has never lost track of the bottom line.
“I feel the best when I can put someone back to work,” Wirths said. “I don’t care if it’s at Walmart or Phizer, it’s great to see somebody get a job.”