‘It's Essential': Vermont's Rescue Squads Need More EMTs and Paramedics

A job fair in Vermont’s Franklin County aimed to attract applicants to work as first responders

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With communities across New England concerned with staffing levels at their local EMS providers, a job fair in Vermont aimed to attract those much-needed personnel.

AmCare, which serves several communities in northwestern Vermont, shares a problem with many ambulance squads across the northeast and beyond: full and part-time staff vacancies for EMTs and paramedics.

“It’s essential,” AmCare operations director Derek Choate said of the need to boost staffing levels of rescue squads. “It’s absolutely essential.”

Choate was at a job fair in St. Albans Wednesday hoping to recruit the next generation of providers. He told NECN & NBC10 Boston he knows folks who have left the field, finding their skills let them earn better pay in less stressful situations — especially with so many employers now competing for people with medical experience.

“We can provide advanced cardiac life support in your living room,” Choate said, in reference to how vital the service is.

As NECN & NBC10 Boston have previously reported, New England communities have expressed concern that shortages of EMTs or paramedics could slow response times in a medical emergency — when minutes, or even seconds, can really make a difference.

“We definitely want to increase the numbers,” said Marc Schauber, the program manager of the Vermont EMS Academy in Newfane, which just opened this fall.

Complete with facilities that even simulate medical procedures performed in an ambulance traveling on a bumpy road, the new academy aims to offer easier access to required education. Schauber said it will also offer outreach opportunities, hoping to attract people to work as EMTs and paramedics.

“We’re here to serve and fill a need,” Schauber said in an interview Wednesday. “We’re looking to help the entire state and even beyond the New England area.”

The Vermont EMS Academy is a part of Rescue Inc., a nonprofit organization which Schauber described as southern Vermont’s largest operating ambulance service. As NECN & NBC10 reported in early August, Rescue Inc. launched VEMSA thanks in large part to an influx of federal dollars to help communities recover stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back at the job fair for first responders, high school senior Jakob Biniecki was connecting with possible future employers.

“I definitely like helping everyone out — that’s a big part of who I am,” Biniecki said, explaining what attracted him to a potential career as a first responder. “My eyes are sort of fixated on a law enforcement or an EMS career, definitely.”

AmCare, which has job postings listed online, and other rescue squads nationally sure would like to hear from a lot more interested young people like Biniecki and his classmates who attended the job fair.

That job fair, held in the auditorium at St. Albans City Hall, also had representatives from the Vermont Department of Corrections, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Albans Police Department, Northwest Medical Center, the Vermont National Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and others — all looking to recruit applicants.

The Vermont Department of Labor’s Vermont Job Link website also provides a directory of positions and training programs you can search based on occupation or location statewide. As of Wednesday afternoon, that site had more than 19,000 jobs listed — most of them in Vermont, but some from out-of-state employers.

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