Rutland supposedly doesn’t need jobs.
We’ve been hearing that line for a couple years now, from the governor (though he’s talking about Vermont as a whole, not Rutland in particular) down to our local economic development people. We don’t have a jobs problem, they say, we have a people problem. Our local employers have all these jobs they can’t fill, and we need to figure out how to fill them.
And yet I still hear from people on “the streets” that there aren’t a lot of jobs out there, and I’ve always wondered if there isn’t a population here that’s getting overlooked in all the talk about what Rutland does and doesn’t need.
If you’re hooked into social media locally, you might have seen a notice that the soon-to-open Five Guys Burgers and Fries was so swamped with applications that they teamed up with the Vermont Department of Labor to hold a two-day job fair with walk-in interviews. Finally, I had a data point I could hook onto. Can we really claim we’re all set in the jobs department if people are lining up out the door trying to get work at a burger joint?
“There’s definitely an issue of a skills gap,” said Tyler Richardson, the executive director of the Rutland Economic Development Corp. “There are a lot of jobs that require either a certain set of skills or experience.”
Richardson said the job glut narratives comes from three sources. The first is demographics — the area’s population is declining, leaving fewer people to do the work that needs doing. The second is the unemployment rate, which Richardson acknowledged is an imperfect measure of how many people are really out of work. The third, he said, is what they hear from employers.
“Their major challenges, across the board, is they can’t find people to fill the positions,” Richardson said.
Late Thursday afternoon, the first three jobs listed on the “Careers in Rutland” section of REDC’s website were respiratory therapist, ultrasound technologist and psychiatrist — careers one is unlikely to step directly into from behind the counter at Five Guys. After that we had certified coder, skilled carpenter and several different types of engineer at GE.
Richardson said local and state agencies are working on programs aimed at bridging the skills gap, but said that even if everyone looking for work in the area got trained for one of the vacant jobs, that still might not close the people gap.
There’s another recurring theme in the economic development discussions that came up this week — Google results for Rutland, I keep hearing, are overwhelmingly positive. Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce executive director Mary Cohen was the latest to mention this, saying Wednesday that it was helping rope people in for Stay to Stay packages.
I figured I should give it a look. The first page of results was, honestly, kind of boring. It started with the Herald’s website — I’ve probably skewed the results for my own computer by using Google to look up old stories — the city’s website and the Wikipedia page for the Rutland in England.
Then we get our Wikipedia page followed by the websites for the chamber, the Downtown Rutland Partnership, Rutland Fire Clay Co., the library and the city schools. The next few pages continue to be a mix of local businesses and organizations. Bland, maybe, but certainly not negative.
A news search turns up a negative result almost immediately, though that could be different in a week when a story about an infant who died at a local day care isn’t trending — and, in fairness, that could have happened anywhere. We are not, at least, still the poster child for the national opiate epidemic.
A Google image search gets you a lot of pictures of England unless you specify “Rutland, VT.” Then it was mostly photos of downtown.
The aldermanic field narrowed slightly after the initial petition deadline Monday.
Alderwoman Melinda Humphrey and newcomer Matthew had each submitted petitions to run for both a two-year seat on the board as well as the remaining year of William Notte’s term. Since then, Humphrey withdrew from the one-year race, leaving Reveal in a one-on-one competition with Dan White. Reveal pulled out of the main race, leaving a total of nine people vying for the six two-year seats.
Monday, the board of Aldermen meets at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, the Development Review Board meets at 6 p.m. to look at two different projects on Route 7.