If all goes as planned, Vermont Creamery of Websterville will have 18 new, full-time employees by the end of the summer thanks, in part, to a $65,000 grant from the Vermont Training Program (VTP) of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Vermont Creamery, which makes fresh and aged goat cheeses, cultured butter, and crème fraiche, will use the money to train new employees and to retrain current employees.
“We’re here and we’re hiring,” said Eliza Giroux, Vermont Creamery human resources generalist. The company has already filled one of the 18 positions and hopes to fill the other 17 jobs making cheese and butter “as soon as possible,” according to Giroux.
In 2017, Green Mountain Insulated Glass used a $6,800 VTP grant to train four new employees at its Rutland plant. Two years ago the company, which manufactures insulated glass (double pane) for windows and doors, moved from New Hampshire to Rutland. GMIG Operations Manager Dan Shea said the company probably could have funded the training without the state help, but covering that cost would have been “very tough.”
“One of the positives about doing business in Vermont is the Vermont Training Program, especially for a small business like ours,” Shea said.
Sam Hooper, the new owner of Green Mountain Glove in Randolph, agrees with Shea. GMG is using its $6,330 grant to train both current and new employees. Hooper hopes to hire four to five new employees by fall. The high-level training also will position his company to obtain an ISO certification (International Standards Organization), which will enable GMG to break into new markets.
“We’re lucky to be doing business in a state that wants small businesses to succeed,” Hooper said.
The Vermont Training Program has been offering performance-based, workforce training grants for over 30 years. The program, which was initiated by the legislature in 1978, was originally only available for advanced manufacturing training, but in 2014 was opened up to all sectors of the state’s economy.
“The Vermont Training Program is an important part of our workforce and economic development initiatives. The program works with businesses of all shapes and sizes, as grants help companies evolve and grow with their existing workforce, while also providing Vermonters with transferable skills which are valuable throughout their careers and across industries. As we continue our work to increase and match our workforce with the needs of companies looking to grow in the state, the Vermont Training Program in an essential tool,” said Joan Goldstein, commissioner of the Department of Economic Development.
VTP provides up to 50% of the training cost for pre-employment, new hire and current employee training. Priority is placed on the twelve Vermont 2020 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy target sectors, which include advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, financial services & insurance, food systems, forest products, environmental consulting and building, health care, and clean energy, software development and IT.
According to Goldstein, this fiscal year VTP will spend $2,075,271 through 40 grants, which will pay for training for 1,512 workers. Companies which have received grants range from small companies like Green Mountain Insulated Glass, to large companies such as Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin and GE Aviation in Rutland. The grants are awarded on a rolling basis.
Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation (CVEDC) assisted Vermont Creamery in seeking out the Vermont Training Program grant.
“This company is making a significant investment in their people and facility,” said Jamie Stewart, executive director of CVEDC. “Workforce training remains a critical need for expanding companies, and the Vermont Training Program remains the most effective tool available to prepare the highly skilled workforce needed for employers like Vermont Creamery.”
VTP funds both incumbents and new hires. In order to qualify for grant money, the employer must guarantee that the trainees are all full-time, permanent employees. VTP funds cannot be used to duplicate other state or federal funds. The pay rate at the completion of training must equal or exceed the livable wage as defined by the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office (JFO), which is currently set at $13.06 per hour. In addition, employees must be offered a minimum of three employee benefits, including health insurance (with 50% or more of the premium paid by the employer), dental assistance, paid vacation, paid holidays, child care, retirement benefits, other paid time off excluding paid sick days, other extraordinary employee benefits.
Vermont Creamery’s payment package, as is the case for most of the grantees, is considerably higher than the grant’s minimum requirements. According to Adeline Druart, Vermont Creamery president, the total compensation for the new hires, including hourly pay and all benefits, is $30 hour.
“Vermont Creamery is a fantastic example of an agricultural business that started on one Vermont farm and grew to become a nationally renowned and award-winning venture,” Goldstein said.
According to Matt Reese, director of finance for Vermont Creamery, the grant program is a useful tool companies can use to recruit employees in a very tight market for workers.
“At 2.3% unemployment, the market for employees is very competitive,” Reese said. “To meet the challenge, we need to set ourselves apart. We need to show that were are a family, and that we have a family atmosphere here.”
“As Vermont Creamery prepares for conscious growth, the expertise of our skilled workforce has never been more important,” said Druart. “We are so grateful for the support of VTP grant funding, which has enabled us to build a robust training program.”