A statewide push will encourage more Vermonters to continue their educations after high school, in what a new council admits is a bold goal.
"We need all hands on deck," said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, at the launch of 70x2025vt.
The initiative is aimed at having 70 percent of Vermonters holding a two-or four-year college degree, or valuable training credentials in specialized fields, by the year 2025.
Right now, the number is between 50 and 55 percent, according to members of the 70x2025vt effort.
That means in order to meet its aggressive goal, 70x2025vt wants to see roughly 30,000 more Vermonters seek some level of education after high school.
"Nearly seven out of the ten 'high-pay, high-demand' jobs over the next decade will require some education after high school," Gov. Scott said. "These jobs are there, but the skilled workers are not."
70x2025vt brings together education and workforce development experts to coordinate efforts toward growing opportunity and the state’s economy.
Today, Vermont employers in construction, the trades, engineering, technology, and medical fields are reporting a real need for talented workers, and a high school diploma often isn’t enough.
"There’s a lot of competition going after very few people," said Jay Fayette of PC Construction, a multi-state general contracting, construction management, and design-build firm headquartered in South Burlington.
Fayette said he hopes 70x2025vt will help PC Construction attract stronger and more highly-skilled applicants.
"It’s bringing more opportunity for employers to have a greater pool to choose from," Fayette said of efforts to encourage more education at the post-secondary level.
The new council wants to break down barriers to postsecondary education and training, strengthen links between classrooms and employers, and encourage state policies that could boost career readiness.
"Part of our goal is really to help individuals find the career path that makes sense for them, while understanding that virtually every high school senior is going to need something—whether it’s an apprenticeship, some on-the-job training or a degree—in order to achieve their economic and social goals," said Scott Giles, the president and CEO of the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, which houses 70x2025vt.
Giles provided an example of one problem the coalition has already identified: that many young people simply aren’t filling out financial aid forms.
The initiative will work to increase awareness of resources available to students, Giles said, noting that early efforts toward that goal have already produced more applicants filling out documents that help connect them with financial aid available to them.
The new task force said inaction is not an option, warning it would only mean state revenues will stagnate and employers will struggle to find workers they need to thrive.