The Green Mountains are changing color this time of year and Vermont appears to be turning gray, at least when it comes to the state's population.
"We heard a lot of complaints here in Vermont, demographics challenges, a lot of young people leaving," said Frank Cioffi of the Vt. Technology Council.
The latest census figures show Vermont is the second-oldest in the country, only behind Maine in people's median age. And so business and labor leaders have spent the better part of a decade finding ways to fight the exodus of young people, often called the brain drain.
"For the first time in years, Vermont, last year, did not see a decline in the young population," Vt. Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan said.
The state sees that as a positive sign that things are changing. But they say more needs to be done to create a jobs pipeline for students from Vermont colleges to companies here and they think internships are the solution.
"Getting them some real world experience is the critical piece," Vt. Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller said.
So, they're launching a new one-stop internship portal online for both students and employers across the state to connect.
But jobs aren't the only factor in keeping young people here.
"In Vermont we have to improve our housing stock, available housing, and we also have to improve some of the infrastructure in terms of transportation," Noonan said.
And not everyone thinks so much focus needs to be spent on stopping the so-called brain drain or that it's the solution to the state's economic woes.
"There's something to be said for kids who grow up here to spend some time away. We are part of a global community," Miller said. "We can't believe that maintaining an insular society and making sure our kids don't go away will lead to success."
There are some 40,000 young people at Vermont's colleges. Labor leaders say success in stemming the brain drain would be to convince about 1 in every 10 students to stay in the state.
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