State tries to encourage more Vt. students to consider careers in the trades

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 5:03 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2022 at 7:10 PM EDT
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HYDE PARK, Vt. (WCAX) - As labor shortages persist across Vermont, the state hopes to guide more high school students to pursue careers in the trades.

The state is working to contribute millions of dollars to help educate students that the trades are out there and give them the tools to pursue a career in technical education.

In fact, the state projects needing thousands of tradespeople in the next year to keep infrastructure and services moving smoothly across the state.

“You need people in the trades to make the world go round,” said Haley Michaud, 17, of East Hardwick.

Michaud is entering her second year in the HVAC program at the Green Mountain Technology and Career Center, the vocational education program in Lamoille County. She’s the only girl in her class, and she says she’s excited to enter the workforce.

“I decided to do this instead of going to a four-year college because coming to these programs, you can walk right out and go right into work and make pretty good money going out there,” Michaud said.

Employers in the trades say they desperately need more students taking that route. With the majority of workers in the trades trending toward retirement, staffing has become a major issue for people like Greg Tatro, who owns an earth-working company.

“We turned down millions of dollars worth of work this summer because we couldn’t find enough people to do the work. So we are pretty cautious when it comes to overbidding and having too much work. So it’s been a hindrance, there’s no question,” Tatro said.

This issue is why Gov. Phil Scott and partners such as the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation are working to funnel millions of dollars to help encourage enrollment in post-secondary technical training programs.

VSAC is offering $3 million in forgivable loans to students entering high-demand trades such as clean energy, energy efficiency, robotics and building trades.

The state is also using $15 million from the education fund surplus to begin a program where students can get experience rehabilitating homes in their communities.

“We have an incredible amount of work to do, work that will change the lives of Vermonters and transform our state. And the people who are going to get it done are people who have trained in the trades,” said Scott, R-Vermont.

Interest appears to be growing. In 2018, just 25% of Vermont high school juniors and seniors participated in technical education programs, but as of last year, that number had jumped to 32%.

“They come out of school having those skills, not 100%, they’ll get the final training on the job, but they are going to know enough that they can actually make money for their employers the first day on the job,” said Djorn Crown, an HVAC instructor.

The state is also launching a large marketing campaign to make sure students know that CTE careers are out there.

The Legislature will also be looking at a study to see if laws can be changed to make these programs more accessible to everyone.