Gov. Phil Scott opened his remarks at Stafford Technical Center by mentioning that he was in the technical program at Spaulding High School.
“I love to build, and craft and create things, so I could do that in the morning and take my college prep in the morning,” Scott told the group assembled at the Dollhouse — the restaurant run by Stafford’s culinary program — for a legislative breakfast Monday. “We’ve seen a trend for decades where kids are pushed to a traditional, four-year degree. Those are valuable, but they are not for everyone.”
The gathering was about the options available through other educational paths, particularly those of Stafford’s adult education program.
“One of the things that impresses me is how adaptive we can be at this school,” said engineer Blair Enman, who serves as chairman of the committee overseeing the program. “When somebody needs something, they call (Assistant Director William Lucci) and we craft a program that meets their needs. ... We can do anything that fulfills anything an industry in this community needs.”
What Vermont needs, Scott said, is to expand its workforce.
“I travel the state quite a bit and not a day goes by when I don’t hear from an employer who has jobs and can’t find people to fill them,” he said.
Much of Scott’s rhetoric has centered on encouraging people to move to Vermont and fill those jobs, such as with the program that pays remote workers to locate here.
“We received some criticism with the remote worker program,” he said. “That wasn’t my idea. I was skeptical when it was first thought of, but it worked.”
Scott said 100 people came to Vermont as a result of the program, bringing their families with them and receiving an average payout of $3,500 each.
Scott described how one of his cousins moved to Nashville from Vermont for a job, and was soon followed by her sister and parents. He said the state needs to reverse that trend, not just attracting people but also keeping people here.
“We need our kids to know there are opportunities for careers right here in Vermont,” he said.
Robert Stubbins, of Stubbins Electric, said those opportunities are the result of desperate needs on the part of local companies, which are going to turn into needs for the entire community as more of the state’s aging tradespeople retire.
“Economic progress means nothing if there’s not a workforce to build the things that need to be built and fix the things that need to be fixed,” he said.
Stubbins said training in trades like electrical work, plumbing and carpentry are too often looked at as “lesser” and “for the people not smart enough to go to college.”
“These tech centers are so important to changing that narrative,” he said, adding that people who complete many of the programs at Stafford are virtually guaranteed a career.
“It’s not just a job,” he said. “It’s a good, well-paying career. It’s on par with a lot of jobs a 4-year degree could get you.”