Governor Scott Promotes Technical Training in Vermont
Gov. Phil Scott, left, and Scott Giles, president and CEO of the Vermont Student Assistance Corp., appear at a news conference for the 70x2025vt initiative Tuesday in South Burlington. Photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger
SOUTH BURLINGTON — Flanked by education leaders, Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday put his weight behind a project to encourage more Vermonters to finish college degrees and technical training.
The project is called 70x2025vt. The purpose of the initiative is to ensure 70 percent of Vermonters have either a college degree or a career credential by the year 2025. Nearly 70 percent of high-paying jobs require either a degree or a credential, according to the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.
Just 42 percent of Vermonters had obtained college degrees as of 2009. Data are hard to come by for the number of people who have finished non-degree certifications in fields like plumbing or computer coding, according to VSAC.
“My most important commitment as governor is to create more economic opportunity for all Vermonters,” Scott said. He pointed to the three goals he outlined on the day he was inaugurated in January: to grow the economy, increase affordability and protect vulnerable Vermonters.
“Our education system is one of the most valuable economic development tools we have,” Scott said. “We need to ensure our citizens have access to the education and career pathways to help them learn the skills they need to succeed at work and transform our communities.”
Scott said the initiative is part of the “cradle to career” education vision he outlined in his first budget address. In addition to a need for students to attend college, and for out-of-state students to remain in Vermont after they graduate, he said there is a need for non-degree and on-the-job training to help employers train workers.
“These jobs are there, but the skilled workers are not,” Scott said.
Employers in the construction trades and health care have the highest need for workers, officials said.
The press conference was held at PC Construction, an employee-owned construction company based in Vermont that employs 1,000 people nationally.
Jay Fayette, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said PC Construction is “on the hunt to find the skilled workers” for high paying jobs at the company. “For me, and PC Construction, joining in the 70x2025vt initiative is a ‘no brainer’ to make sure that Vermont is developing a talent pool that can meet the demands of our state and global economy,” Fayette said.
70x2025vt has a startup budget of around $250,000 from a combination of foundation grants and VSAC.
Scott Giles, the CEO of VSAC, said the project will bring together leaders in the education community coordinate and workforce development experts to break down barriers between young people and higher education.
Vermont students leave $2.5 million in federal financial aid on the table each year that they may be able to use to attend college, Giles said. That’s why VSAC has been working with the education community to get more kids to fill out the federal student aid application, he said.
Giles said students, especially low-income students, should not count themselves out of going to college simply because they perceive they cannot afford it. He said they should find out what kind of aid they’re eligible for before making that decision.
Additionally, Tom Cheney, the director of 70×2025, said the group would be setting up cross-sector working groups to help identify barriers and drive students toward higher education.
“We’re not going to create white papers,” Cheney said. “We’re going to create results for Vermonters.”