Calling All Job-seekers: Vt. Launches Workforce Development Push

(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt., and members of his economic development team announced a new campaign this week to attract skilled workers to the state, while connecting employers with the staff they need to grow. The effort, called "Great Jobs in Vermont," includes a new website and partnerships with Vermont colleges to reach their alumni in hopes of enticing them to return to Vermont if they've moved away.

In a twist on summer tourism promotions, the project even will ask vacationers to consider a permanent stay. "If you're looking at coming to visit Vermont, look beyond the visit," explained Patricia Moulton, Vermont's commerce secretary. "The idea being, you love our lakes, you’ll love our jobs. You love our hikes, you’ll love our jobs."

Vermont has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the entire country. Its seasonally-adjusted joblessness figure for April was 3.3 percent, according to the Vt. Labor Dept. Still, Moulton said there is a need for a deeper bench in the workforce, since the state has long struggled with a prime reality of its graying demographics. "We have an aging workforce," Moulton said. "We're either the first or second oldest in the country in terms of which day or who you ask."

Moulton acknowledged it's a tricky problem to turn around, due to a perception it is tough to make ends meet in Vermont, with high rents and home heating costs. However, Moulton said there are employers statewide hungry for workers, and willing to pay them, if just they can find them. She believes will help.

Moulton said people with educations and backgrounds in engineering, computing, and manufacturing are particularly in demand. The Winooski firm MyWebGrocer, which provides e-marketing and e-commerce tools to food producers and sellers, said it is currently looking for software engineers, advertising experts, and sales people. "Eventually we will kind of tap out who we have available here, because there's only a certain number of people in Vermont," said company spokeswoman Kyle Munderville. "So we're all for getting more people, spreading the word, [and] bringing people from other areas of the Northeast and New England. We’re based in Vermont but work with clients across the country."

Julie Conlon, who grew up in Essex, Vermont and recently graduated from Keene State College in New Hampshire, attended a job fair Thursday in Burlington hosted by the Vermont Recruiters Association and the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. "There a lot of great jobs," she said, describing the offerings by employers at the recruitment event called “Career Connections.”

Conlon said she hopes to find a position that lets her use her writing skills, adding she'd like to be a part of re-energizing Vermont's workforce while enjoying the quality of life here. "I would like to stay here for a while," she said of Vermont, smiling.

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