Scott outlines new workforce initiatives to fill available jobs and create more opportunity

Click image to view press conference. Vermont Precision Tools President Monica Green is at the far right; Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington is to her right; VSAC President Scott Giles is on the far left, next to him is ACCD Secretary Lindsay Kurrle, and HCR Director Ena Backus is in the blue dress. Image courtesy of the governor's office.

Vermont Business Magazine At his weekly media briefing, Governor Phil Scott in Swanton highlighted initiatives and investments passed this year to help train, retain and recruit more workers to address Vermont’s workforce shortage.

The governor was joined by state leaders from the Department of Labor, Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Agency of Human Services and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) to discuss newly passed legislation that will help grow and strengthen the workforce, including regional workforce expansion program, loan forgiveness and incentives to retain nurses, and investments in higher education and adult training programs.

A recent study concluded that Vermont has the second tightest labor market in the nation, behind only Missouri.

Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle, Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington, Director of Health Care Reform Ena Backus and VSAC President Scott Giles laid out new opportunities available through Act 183.

These include:

  • $3M Regional Workforce Expansion and Work-Based Learning and Training to expand regional support at the Department of Labor, connecting and assisting jobseekers and employers who are hiring. This initiative will also fund statewide on-the-job learning and training experiences to subsidize costs for employers and create opportunity for career changes and upskilling for workers.
  • $3M Vermont Trades Scholarship Program will be administered through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation and provide scholarships for individuals enrolled in an industry-recognized training and certification program that leads to employment in high-demand sectors in Vermont.
  • $10M to address healthcare workforce shortages through various grants, loan forgiveness and incentive programs to support, recruit and retain healthcare workers in the state.
  • $3M New Relocating Worker Program to continue the state’s work to recruit new residents to the state through grants that help pay for their moving expenses.

Harrington said the regional program could be expanded as the state seeks to bring jobs to all sectors and regions of the state.

Kurrle said the successful relocation program has already helped hundreds of families with moving expenses as the start a new job in Vermont or start a new business here.

Much of the focus of the health care worker program is intended to retain and recruit nurses. This includes training, scholarships and grants.

Vermont Precision Tools hosted the event and the company’s president, Monica Greene, also shared details on the company’s efforts to train, retain and recruit employees.

Green is the second generation owner and president of VPT, which includes Vermont Gage.

VPT is a major metal fabrication supplier for surgical, aerospace and automotive equipment. They employ about 200 at their Swanton headquarters and another 115 at their plant in Kentucky. She said pre-pandemic they employed about 350.

She said they have lost workers, as many other businesses have, to early retirement and competition from other employers. On top of that, they are experiencing the "supply chain nightmare" and "super-inflation" related to freight hauling.

"We're all fighting the battle of not having enough help," Green said, even as they ramp up their recruiting and training.

More details can be found in the below transcript of Governor Scott’s remarks or by clicking here to view the press conference.

Governor Scott Remarks

Thank you all for being here and thanks to Vermont Precision Tools for hosting us.

We’re here today to talk about a familiar theme – one that I’ve focused on since my very first day in office, and that’s workforce.

At the start of each legislative session, I outline my Administration’s priorities for the year. I’m sure most of you have heard me talk about our strategic priorities before: growing the economy; making Vermont more affordable; and protecting the most vulnerable.

To accomplish each of these goals, we keep coming back to our Achilles’ heel: The lack of workers in our workforce.

Now, as you might remember, during my first term as governor I spoke a lot about three numbers: 6-3-1. Each of them representing concerning trends we were facing – and this was long before the pandemic. On average, we were seeing six fewer workers in our workforce, three fewer kids in our K-12 schools, and one child born to addiction, every single day.

We were beginning to make progress, but then along came a once-in-a-century pandemic that had ripple effects far beyond public health.

If you talk to any employer – and you’ll hear from a great one here at Vermont Precision Tools – finding people to fill the good jobs they have available is a challenge.

That’s why, with record state surpluses and all the federal funding, I thought it was so important to invest in areas I knew would make a difference.

All the proposals we put forward were tied together to address this issue: To have more workers, we need more housing. To have more housing, we need water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure. To support workers and give them reasons to come here, we need broadband, childcare, and safe, healthy and thriving communities. And to keep costs down and protect the environment, we need to invest in things like weatherization.

But we also need workforce training and development programs, which is why we’re here today.

My team worked closely with the Legislature, in particular the economic development and health care committees, to pass S.11, now Act 183, which includes major investments to expand and strengthen our workforce. There were also important workforce investments in the budget for higher education and VSAC to make getting the needed skills more affordable. And I want to mention H.518, now Act 172, which gives more financial assistance for Guard members to continue their education.

It was great to see support for so many initiatives that will help move the needle on our workforce shortage – though we all know we need to do more.

I want to acknowledge all the members of the House and Senate here today, and in particular, the Chair of House Economic Development Mike Marcotte for your close collaboration and commitment to getting these initiatives passed.

Members of my team will speak more about some of the specifics in a moment, but you’ll hear about ways employers and potential employees can better connect; support for refugees entering the workforce; and incentives to recruit workers to Vermont. And while we have shortages in every sector, we know healthcare is a big one, so S.11 included tools specifically for healthcare workers and nurses. We’ll also hear from Scott Giles of VSAC which received funding to help more students access post-secondary education and training, and a forgivable loan program to keep more of them here after they graduate.

This is just a handful if initiatives that were passed this session, and we’ll highlight more as these programs get up and running.

But no matter what government does, this work is not possible without strong leadership and partnership from the private sector. Employers finding new ways to attract, train and retain workers is essential to our success.

Vermont Precision Tools is not just our host today but a great example of an employer who is running their own training program. It’s now my pleasure to turn the podium over to Monica Greene, president of Vermont Precision Tools, to talk more about the work the company does, as well as some of the challenges they face because of our workforce shortage.

Governor June 21, 2022. Swanton, Vt. –