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Vermont Governor Phil Scott emphasizes workforce development while visiting job fair

Vermont Governor Phil Scott (file)
Pat Bradley
Vermont Governor Phil Scott (file)

Vermont Governor Phil Scott held his weekly press briefing Tuesday at what is billed as the state’s “largest job fair” and used the venue to focus on his workforce policies.

The job fair at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction features more than 150 employers in sectors such as construction and the trades who are hiring. Republican Governor Phil Scott used his visit as an opportunity to focus on workforce issues.

Department of Labor Economic & Labor Market Information Division analyst Matt Barewicz began the briefing with an overview of the state’s demographics and workforce. He said between 2010 and 2020 the state saw a slight growth in population but all counties saw declines in the labor force.

“Our population has been slowly growing," Barewicz said. "In 2020 it grew faster than we anticipated. But we’ve been experiencing downward pressure on our labor force for about the last ten years, since 2011, with many counties reaching peak labor force participation then. And we are at record high levels of job postings. But if you compare hires to quits it’s about a 3 to 2 ratio looking at the last few months. And you can see why this is the difficulty in the traction that we’re trying to gain as we go through this period of economic transition.”

Governor Scott hopes the data offers insight into why he is so concerned about workforce issues and why he feels addressing the challenges must be a priority.

“If we don’t right this ship we’ll continue to see our workforce shrink," Scott said. "That’s why anything we do and with every policy we consider we need to be asking ourselves will this help or hurt our workforce crisis? If the answer is it won’t help then we should instead put it on the back burner and prioritize the things that will.”

Department of Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington noted that the past two years took a toll on the workforce as people decided to leave the labor force or find a different career.

“It left employers across our state racing to fill thousands of vacant jobs," Harrington said. "And here in Vermont the workforce gap cannot be filled with Vermont’s current population alone. There simply aren’t enough working age Vermonters to fill all the vacancies that our employers have. That is why we must prioritize transformational investments in key areas. Otherwise we will forever be faced with significant shortfalls in our talent pool.”

With less than a month left in the session Scott took aim at the legislature’s budget and its potential impact on workforce issues.

“Going into this session nearly every initiative my administration proposed had workforce in mind," the governor said. "Each proposal aims to grow the economy. We have a plan and a vision to help transform Vermont using this once in a generation opportunity. That’s why I’ve been so concerned about the legislature’s budget. We simply can’t afford to screw this up because we’re not going to get a second chance.”

Governor Scott is happy that the legislature is considering tax relief through a child care tax credit but says his proposal would benefit more Vermonters.

“It’s usually the other way around, they’re trying to raise taxes," Scott said. "So I’m thrilled with that very encouraging sign. We have a difference of opinion on this one and while the child care tax credit is important as it passed the House, and I haven’t seen what they’ve done in the Senate, from my perspective our tax package helped more people and helped 25 percent of the population. So we still have differences. I would say that I wouldn’t support it in its entirety but I have to look at the whole package.”

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