Gov. Peter Shumlin's State of the State addressed focused on education. One specific aspect of the governor's education agenda is for Vermont's technical centers to serve as innovation zones across the state. The goal is to have students picking up skills that are more closely in line with the demands of the communities they serve.
Vermont has 17 career and technical centers across the state. The Center for Technology Essex is one of them. Thursday morning, students filled the center's dental assistant lab. The 26 young people are learning the basics to get them hired in dental offices across Vermont. The program has recently added a radiology assistant certification to its offerings to meet current need.
Last year, more than half the program's participants left the lab for industry-related employment.
CTE currently operates 16 technical programs for juniors and seniors that also include graphic design and computer systems technology.
"Innovation zones for me implies that we are more entrepreneurial in our thinking, we're working closely with our partners to give them what they need as they find their needs. So, it is a way of thinking and I think we do that well here," said Robert Travers of the Center for Technology Essex.
"The thing that I love the most about the dental assisting program is that I get to be hands on and practice my skills after I learn them, so I can actually get better and feel more comfortable with what I am doing," said Eva Duvic, a junior at Colchester High School.
The governor is pointing to schools and tech centers in the Northeast Kingdom as having room for change. He says a shift in focus to training that emphasizes engineering, health care and hospitality could lead to jobs tied to new development in the region.
The Center for Technology Essex says it is continuing to work with area businesses like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to make sure its evening and weekend offerings are also in line with regional needs.