Workforce Development Summit

Posted on 8/16/2018 by Fred Kenney

Workforce Development Summit

As families prepare for the start of another school year, parents, high school counselors, and students themselves also start thinking about life after high school. Students are asking themselves and seeking advice on questions like:  Which four-year college or university should I attend? What should I study? Will I find employment four years and thousands of dollars later?

Meanwhile, employers are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill open jobs and sometimes cannot find candidates with the basic skills to obtain and maintain employment.

For many students, heading off to a college or university is the best and most appropriate course. But too often the alternatives are not even discussed or considered. What about two-year schools or certification courses?  Might a technical college be the best course? As early as possible, our educational system and institutions, middle school and high school counselors, families and students need to start thinking in terms of the most appropriate pathway to a promising career for each individual student.

A skilled and productive workforce is critical for the economic vitality of Vermont and our region. However, we currently face several key labor market challenges:

  • Employers warn of a skills crisis due to the lack of qualified workers to fill a wide-range of jobs, today and into the future.
  • Vermont has maintained one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country (and Addison County’s rate has consistently been lower that the state average), and there are not enough workers at all skill levels to fill current job vacancies.
  •  Many Vermonters are under-employed, and it is not uncommon to hear eligible workers indicate they struggle to find a job that matches their training and/or interests.
  • Parents, youth and families are increasingly anxious about a future where the next generation of workers may not have the same opportunities to prosper as the one before.

As pointed out by a recent report on the State’s Workforce Development System, a major part of the solution to these challenges lies in building a 21st century, effective and efficient state workforce development system – one that is a diverse public-private partnership between employers, government, and education and training providers designed to ensure that individuals have the skills needed by businesses.

Over the course of its four-months of work, the study group explored the labor market challenges we currently face, identified systems level changes that need to take place, and developed an initial set of recommendations that can be acted upon over the coming years. An important realization that took place is that there are some 50-60 organizations involved statewide in aspects of workforce development and training.  If we are to effectively capture Vermont’s workforce development potential, we must find a way to more fully coordinate the work of these various organizations with the mandatory efforts undertaken by state governmental entities and ensure that all these efforts are coordinated with the needs of business in our region.

One of the study group’s recommendations was to “conduct a public engagement process with workforce development and training stakeholders.” In June, ACEDC convened several of these stakeholders and formed a Workforce Development Task Force for Addison County. The Task Force is taking several steps to engage the business community to assess workforce needs and coordinate our regional education and training efforts.

A major step towards this goal is a regional Workforce Development Stakeholders Summit scheduled for Wednesday, September 12 from 3:45 pm to 8:00 pm at the Basin Harbor Resort. The summit is open to Addison County employers, industry groups, business organizations, secondary & post-secondary career & technical education providers, private & public training providers, secondary education leaders & guidance counselors, higher education representatives, economic development practitioners, municipal officials, and regional elected officials. We will share workforce data prepared by the Vermont Department of Labor, discuss how to better coordinate workforce development efforts, identify local priorities for training and education investments and solutions for the workforce development issues specific to our region.

To help prepare for the Summit, we are asking employers to complete a brief survey. Please take a minute to complete this survey even if you cannot attend the summit:

There is no cost to attend however space is limited. Registration ends on Wed. September 5, so please complete the survey and register today. We want everyone’s voice to be included, so if you cannot attend, please pass this information on to an appropriate person in your business or organization. For more information on the Summit and to register, go to: