Vermont governor discusses workforce development during tour of Swanton manufacturer
Vermont Governor Phil Scott was at a manufacturing facility in Swanton Tuesday to promote bills he signed recently to enhance workforce development initiatives across the state.
S.11, also known as Act 183, provides state investments in workforce development initiatives. Scott says most employers find their biggest challenge currently is finding workers to fill open jobs.
“All the proposals we put forward were tied together to address this very issue," Scott said. "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, we need broadband, childcare, and safe, healthy and striving 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.”
The Republican was visiting Vermont Precision Tools in Swanton. The manufacturer of tooling devices for the medical, aerospace, automotive and other metalworking industries has been in business for 54 years. President Monica Greene says there are about 200 employees in Swanton and another 115 at their site in Kentucky. Those employment levels, she says, are down 10 percent from pre-pandemic levels and it’s impacting their in-house training program.
“We made a significant investment going back over eight years now in creating a training program for our new employees as well as incumbents," Greene said. "And all was going well because we could introduce new hires to the manufacturing floor with ready to work skills and allow longer term employees to learn about the innovative technology that was fast becoming the predominant equipment on our floor. Then the pandemic hit. With the workforce shortage we just don’t have the numbers to continue. We have the instructor. We have this training space. We have the training equipment. We don’t have the luxury of pulling people off the floor and putting them into the training program.”
The bills signed by the governor are intended to help expand the state workforce. Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington outlined two of the initiatives.
“The bill provides $1.5 million to create a Regional Workforce Expansion pilot project," Harrington said. "We’ll be able to build a regional workforce expansion plan and help to create direct pipelines to fill local jobs. S.11 also adds $1.5 million to support work-based learning and on the job training with direct funding to cover wages for up to 12 weeks of an individual’s enrollment in an approved work experience. We know that when the labor force is small sometimes good candidates can become great workers with a little hands on instruction and training but it requires employers to take a risk. This program is designed to minimize that risk.”
Greene, a member of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, cited data from the group that the state has an estimated 25,000 job openings and an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent