State Launches Headhunting Mission For Skilled Workers
Vermont has long used its Department of Tourism to draw vacationers into the Green Mountain State. But government officials are now making the hard sell for more permanent stays. A new marketing campaign is aimed at convincing skilled workers from out of state to make Vermont their new home.
Gov. Peter Shumlin held his press conference at Keurig Green Mountain’s Beverage Technology Center in Waterbury. It’s a modern looking building, with lots of windows, and a bright open-air office space. And with so many well-paying job openings at the coffee giant’s Vermont offices, Shumlin said it was the perfect place to launch the state’s latest economic development initiative.
With a state unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, Shumlin said the economic hurdles facing Vermont companies in 2014 are different than the ones they had to overcome in the years following the Great Recession.
“Today our challenge is different – it is finding enough skilled workers to do the jobs we have in a job market that is growing and thriving,” Shumlin says.
"We're going to be reaching out across this great nation and across the world ... with one simple message: There is no better place to work, to live and to raise a family than the state of Vermont." - Gov. Peter Shumlin
Shumlin says a new website – greatjobsinvermont.com – along with the creation of what’s being called the Vermont Recruiters Association, will help solve the skilled worker shortage that he says is preventing science and technology firms from realizing their full growth potential.
“We’re going to be reaching out across this great nation and across the world, coordinating our efforts with one simple message: there is no better place to work, to live and to raise a family than the state of Vermont. We need you now to do the jobs that we have,” Shumlin says.
The website, designed to appeal to tourists and would-be residents alike, touts natural, cultural and recreational amenities that Shumlin says lend the state a high quality of life. A $500,000 summertime ad campaign, tailored to reach carefully targeted demographics on mobile platforms like Pandora and Hulu, will drive visitors to the site.
The Vermont Recruiters Association, meanwhile, will pull together college alumni networks, chambers of commerce and the labor department in a coordinated headhunting effort.
David Sunderland, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, says that if Shumlin really wants to lure skilled workers into the state, then he ought to address the real barriers keeping them out, such as high property taxes.
"It's ironic that we need to create a new program to attract people when it's exactly our policies that have driven them away in the first place." - David Sunderland, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party
“It’s ironic that we need to create a new program to attract people when it’s exactly our policies that have driven them away in the first place,” Sunderland says.
Sunderland says the state’s low unemployment rate has less to do with job creation under Peter Shumlin than with the shrinking of the state’s workforce since he took office. Seasonally adjusted non-farm payroll employment — essentially the number of jobs in the state – is at 308,900, according to the latest survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s only about 1,000 higher than numbers for Vermont in 2006.
Sunderland says the growing list of high-profile layoffs over the past year, which have hit everywhere from Bennington to the North East Kingdom, spotlight the grim reality facing many Vermont workers.
And the increasingly uncertain fate of one of the state’s largest employers – IBM – has workers there on edge as well. Shumlin wouldn’t discuss details Wednesday of his talks with IBM executives over the company’s chip manufacturing plant in Essex Junction.