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More women needed in trades to solve Vermont's workforce shortage

Housing under construction, missing windows and doors and siding
April McCullum
Vermont Public
Apartments are under construction at a new housing project on Market Street in South Burlington on Oct. 11, 2023. The Catamount Run complex will total more than 550 beds, primarily for University of Vermont staff, faculty and graduate students.

Vermont is suffering from a critical shortage of trades workers — and education officials say the state won’t be able to meet its workforce needs unless it encourages more young women to enter the field.

When Ella Townsend entered 9th grade at Spaulding High School, she didn’t see much appeal in doing construction work all day. But after enrolling in some classes at the Central Vermont Career Center in Barre, Townsend is now on a path to a career in construction management.

“Being a woman in this trade make me feel powerful. It makes me feel good about myself," Townsend said. "I work hard for what I do.”

Townsend is a bit of an outlier.

Women represent only about 4% of construction workers in Vermont. That’s due in part to the fact that fewer than 10% of Vermont students enrolled in career and technical education programs identify as women — well below the national average.

“So in essence the national data show that we’re not doing very well in getting young women interested in and participating in trades programs," said Interim Education Secretary Heather Bouchey, "and we have even more work to do in Vermont.”

State education officials and private trades associations are working to get more girls interested in the trades at younger ages. And the Scott administration says it’ll unveil a funding proposal next year to improve those recruitment efforts.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or reach out to reporter Peter Hirschfeld:


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