From building robots, to setting the perfect table, to cooking -- what happens in classrooms at the North Country Career Center could hold the key to the Kingdom's future.
Students at the center get prepared for college and the workforce. Crucial -- because this region is going to need workers. Jay Peak President Bill Stenger has a half-a-billion-dollar investment plan for the Kingdom. Promising 10,000 new jobs over the next five years. Half of those will be temporary construction jobs.
Stenger plans to fund the development through the federal EB-5 investor program. For investing half a million dollars, foreigners get a green card as long as their money helps create at least 10 jobs within two years.
"When these developers are selling the region I would assume they're saying we'll get you the workforce you need. It's highly critical. It's going to be a major part of the success of these projects," said Cindy Robillard with the NEK Workforce Development Team.
"We're trying to get across to them the importance of customer service," said Andrea Carbine, a Hospitality & Culinary Instructor at the center.
Teaching kids about hospitality is new for this career center but vital for the EB-5 developments on the way. Plans include expanding Jay Peak and Burke Mountain, building waterfront and downtown hotels and conference centers in Newport, plus a new biomedical research facility.
Director Eilleen Illuzzi says 700 kids are enrolled in the career center, but some new programs haven't grabbed students attention.
Eilleen Illuzzi: This is the first year of the hospitality and tourism program. Enrollment is kind of low but we really want to start the program...
Reporter Gina Bullard: When you say low, what's low?
Eilleen Illuzzi: oh, low.
Reporter Gina Bullard: How low?
Eilleen Illuzzi: In the two year program we have two students. We usually -- we have about 15 students.
The program teaches kids to provide a higher level of service than what's currently available in the Kingdom. "Hospitality is the largest sector that will be effected by the projects that are happening," Robillard said. Robillard's Workforce Development Team is in charge of finding people to fill all these potential new jobs. She admits it's daunting -- nothing like this has ever been done before here. "A lot of the preparations for people in those positions is entry level. We need people with good solid work readiness skills," she said.
A report by the workforce development team anticipates 1,300 hospitality and tourism jobs are set to be created. That includes:
273 openings for maids and housekeeping cleaners -- average $10.83/Hr.
141 hotel, motel and resort desk clerk positions -- average $11.77/Hr.
85 Waitstaff positions -- average $12.58/Hr.
13 Bookkeepers/accountants/auditors -- average $16.44/Hr.
8 Chefs and head cooks -- average of $20.53/Hr.
9 General operations managers -- average $49.94/Hr.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Are you worried these aren't the kinds of jobs the kingdom needs?
Bill Stenger: No, we also have 500 technology jobs... ...A typical hotel has a broad spectrum of jobs, some are year round and I can show you, higher paying than in most sectors.
Five-hundred of the jobs are anticipated in the technology sector, but it's unclear how many will be high paying jobs. So the career center started a new class showing students how to assemble and design products using computers -- it's called Mechatronics.
Reporter Gina Bullard: When you think of EB-5 and Mechatronics are you thinking AnC Bio?
Eilleen Illuzzi: I was originally thinking Menck Windows. We don't know what AnC Bio needs.
Menck Windows was supposed to bring 125 manufacturing jobs to Newport. The deal fell through after Stenger realized the company would fall short of job requirements for the EB-5 funding -- machines were going to do more of the work than people. Stenger says he's talking to several other manufacturers to fill that void. Now the focus is on Korean biotech firm AnC Bio -- that is expected to bring 500 jobs.
Bill Stenger: AnC Bio will start construction in spring 2014.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Do you have all the investors?
Bill Stenger: Almost all -- we are approaching 90-percent.
AnC Bio manufactures artificial human organs. It's a highly technical field that will require educated workers, but it's still unclear what kinds of jobs AnC Bio will create and how the state needs to prepare.
Cindy Robillard: We haven't sat in a room and had someone say these are the jobs, these are the skills we're looking for, this is the kind of training we want people to have.
Reporter Gina Bullard: When do you think you'll get that information?
Cindy Robillard: I'm not really sure about that. We're in contact with the developers"
"We've made it clear what the timeline and phasing is for each project. I think there's an inherent impatience for, 'We want this to happen now -- today,'" Stenger said. "These projects take years to plan, years to build."
Stenger is currently going through the state permitting process for the AnC Bio plant.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Are you worried about AnC Bio falling through?
Bill Stenger: Not at all. Our leadership team will be here in November. Doctor Jake Lee, our Chief Technology Officer, is now on faculty at UVM.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Are you worried about the timeline at all?
Cindy Robillard: It creates a little anxiety.
Despite the uncertainty, people preparing for this massive expansion say it's a chance to build a new Kingdom that might never come again.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Do you feel equipped and ready to go to train a workforce?
Cindy Robillard: I feel ready to go... I don't know that we're equipped as I stand here speaking to you today, but I know we'll respond in a way that will make it all happen.
"As part of the success, we have to plan along the way. It can't happen to us, we have to be a part of it," Eillen Illuzi said.