There’s a lot on the table for technical education in Vermont.
The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development brought H.533 to the floor, a bill with a strong focus on adult technical education and adult recruitment and a great compliment to year's Act 128 (which focused largely, though not exclusively, on school-aged Vermonters). Among other things, this bill allocates funds to training that results in industry-recognized certification or a registered apprenticeship, provides training for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, and explores the creation of a fully integrated adult career and technical education system. The bill also takes steps to face recruitment and relocation needs, seeks to address licensing barriers for medical professionals, and works to connect military families with Vermont jobs.
Senate Committee on Education worked on 19-1201, which passed out of committee with a vote of 5-0-1, that would require Vermont Technical College to create a pilot program for delivering degrees through career technical education centers around the state. The stated goal of the legislation is to have 70% of Vermont’s workforce holding some form of post-secondary degree or certificate by 2025. The bill also asks AOE to assist with the alignment of degree programs with workforce priority needs.
The House Committee on Education brought forward H.516, which would require schools to expose students to skilled labor training opportunities as early as 5th grade, promoting the idea that the trades can offer the right person just as much success, if not more, than a college education.
It is very encouraging to see so much attention being given to this subject. Normalizing and encouraging participation in skills training is a key component in realizing the full potential for prosperity in our state. We must work with our schools to show students clear career pathways that include the trades. We must also work with the Department of Labor and other stakeholders to help facilitate adult education for those seeking to return to, or better reinforce their position in, the workforce.
It is, however, a very crowded table. Some are predicting we’ll see 1500 bills during this two-year cycle, an unprecedented number by most accounts. This is why we at Campaign for Vermont call upon our lawmakers to balance all policy decisions against their role of creating a strong, modern, accessible workforce. We strongly believe the time is right to ensure technical education is given the support and equal attention it deserves to provide all of Vermont’s children, adults, and those with disabilities viable alternatives while choosing a career that best suits their interest and learning style.
The benefits from a technical education are well known: focused and efficient curriculum; lower course costs and loan indebtedness; high post-graduation placement rates in the student’s chosen field; job security; and the potential for a very solid starting salary with benefits.
Our skills gap and lack of qualified workers is stunting Vermont’s ability to prosper. Existing companies cannot grow without skilled employees, and new businesses are reluctant to come here knowing they will face significant hiring challenges. Simultaneously, many Vermonters are unemployed or underemployed. This means that the potential exists here to help reinvigorate our workforce. Vermont youth, adults and the disabled currently access post-secondary learning at the lowest rates in New England. It is time to make a concerted effort to focus on the need and benefits of technical education. Providing Vermonters who want to learn with access to a comprehensive set of skills and experiences can give them a clear path to a successful career after graduation.
We understand that legislators are being pulled in a thousand different directions, but all will be for naught if we continue to see our prosperity decline. The time is right. The time HAS to be right. Steel your commitment to improving Vermont’s economy and promote educational opportunities that connect real people with real jobs.