Gov. Phil Scott’s budget request to invest an additional $1 million in the nondegree grant program will pay off in opportunities for Vermonters who need education and training for jobs that are waiting to be filled.

During the next decade, seven out of 10 of the high-paying, highdemand jobs created in Vermont will require education or training after high school, according to the Department of Labor.

Education is the most powerful tool we have to end generational poverty and reverse social inequities.

But too many Vermonters don’t have the education and training they need now, and that will be required in the future for the new workplace. For Vermonters, continuing education or training after high school is a necessity.

Automation and technology are changing the American workforce. Robots now milk cows on Vermont farms. Manufacturing jobs require advanced math and other academic skills that come with education after high school.

The New York Times reports that “nearly nine in 10 jobs that disappeared since 2000 were lost to automation in the decades-long march to an information-driven economy, not to workers in other countries.”

That’s the economic reality we must prepare for. Vermont will need skilled workers who will create opportunity for themselves and for the state. In nearly all cases, that means continuing education and training after high school. This funding will help more Vermonters have access to education and training right here in Vermont, and make it more affordable. The nondegree grant is particularly powerful because it opens doors and transforms lives. At Vermont Student Assistance Corp., we work with adult students and see what happens when they believe in themselves and make the leap. It is inspiring. Vermont was the first state to create a nondegree grant program in 1982; 35 years later, we’ve helped more than 35,000 Vermonters get the education and training they need to further their careers.

In fact, demand for the nondegree grant program has doubled in the last decade as Vermonters seek education and training to obtain a job or further their careers.

Today the average nondegree recipient is 33 years old, female, lives in a household of two with an annual income of $20,444. This program has stayed focused and committed to unemployed and underemployed Vermont families. It empowers Vermonters to choose the path best suited for them.

Last year, the program served more than 1,700 Vermonters before funding ran out. The average nondegree grant is $1,800.

Six in 10 unemployed Vermonters who got a nondegree grant last year found jobs, both part-time and fulltime. An additional 10 percent was in longer-term education or training programs.

Those who were employed reported more hours and higher wages.

These results are immediate. Most of the education and training courses are completed within several months. We are seeing Vermonters getting a head start in their jobs, and in their future in Vermont.

We have to get better at making education and training after high school an opportunity for all Vermonters — and we need help. We spend more on K-12 education than almost every other state, and our graduation rates are among the highest in the country. But Vermont ranks at the bottom when it comes to funding postsecondary education. This puts education and training out of reach for too many Vermonters.

We need to get better at helping Vermont businesses, too. Employers can’t function without a workforce that is skilled for the jobs of today and the ones to be created down the road.

We have a responsibility — now — to rewrite the future for Vermont with education and training for a new workforce, a new economy, new business and innovation.

VSAC has been in the business of making opportunities for more than 50 years. Our mission is to create opportunities for all Vermont students, but particularly for those — of any age— who believe that the doors to education and training after high school are closed to them.

Support working-age adult Vermonters’ pursuit of education and training needed for workforce development by increasing appropriations to the nondegree grant program.

We know it works.

Scott Giles is president and CEO of Vermont Student Assistance Corp. He lives in Shelburne.

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