Better Vermont jobs, and how to get them

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo

By Stephen Mills
Correspondent

What are the most promising jobs with the highest wages in Vermont in the next 10 years?

Job seekers need look no further than Pathways to Promising Careers, a joint survey by the Burlington-based McClure Foundation and Vermont Department of Labor.

The survey anticipates high demand in health care, education, technology, finance and the wood industry, with numerous job openings that pay $20 an hour or more.

But there is one caveat: Many require training and education beyond high school. Statistics show that only 60 percent of Vermont high school students enroll in college within 16 months of graduating.

The survey makes a strong case bolstering Gov. Phil Scott’s call to invest in higher education to meet future demand for skilled labor.

Brochures featuring the high-paying jobs are being sent to schools and colleges, state agencies and nonprofits. An internet application allows users to match specific job descriptions with education and training programs to acquire needed skills.

Based on Department of Labor data and projections for potential job growth, the survey’s findings run contrary to popular belief that there are few opportunities for high-paying work or much of an economic future in Vermont — a reason some young Vermonters are believed to leave the state.

For its part, the McClure Foundation has focused on identifying and funding training and education programs that fit the profile of many of the state’s promising job growth areas.

“The McClure Foundation specifically envisions a Vermont where no promising job goes unfilled for lack of qualified applicants,” said Carolyn Weir, the McClure Foundation’s philanthropic advisor. “To that end we have an interest in sharing that there are many high-paying jobs right here in Vermont for people with all sorts of skill sets and backgrounds.

“Each job is expected to pay at least $20 an hour and have at least 100 openings in the next 10 years,” Weir added.

Topping the list for the most wanted employees is a need for 2,290 registered nurses over the next 10 years. The position requires a two-year associate’s degree, but pays a median $62,800 annually, or $30 an hour.

The state will also need 2,280 teachers, who will earn a median $54,600 annually; and 1,160 accountants and auditors earning a median $65,000 annual salary, or $31 an hour. Both fields require bachelor’s degrees.

Projections also call for 1,350 carpenters, expected to earn a median $41,800 annually or $20 an hour; and 1,090 sales representatives making a median $58,500 annually or $28 an hour — but both fields will only require a GED and training.

In the tech sector, there will be a demand for 480 software developers with bachelor’s degrees, earning a median $85,600 annually or $41 an hour; and 260 web developers with associate’s degrees, earning a median $60,100 annually, or $29 an hour.

The survey also projects demand for thousands of other jobs in engineering, support health services, administrative and legal fields, and in financial services, human resources, public relations and counseling services.

“The jobs are quite broad, and reflect lots of sectors, lots of skills sets, lots of experiences,” Weir said.

Weir noted that despite the Scott administration’s focus to support funding of education, there is a need for funding support from other organizations.

“We also recognize there will always be a role for philanthropists and the nonprofit sector to work with state and local government so that the most vulnerable Vermonters have very clear pathways to these promising jobs, and they receive support along the pathway to those jobs,” said Weir.

One program funded by the McClure Foundation is the Introduction to College Studies class at Community College of Vermont. Instructor and advisor Amy Lewis teaches the 13-week course for high school students to help them define and manage goals for higher education and work opportunities. The class is free for students.

“This course helps students make a transition from high school into the college arena, so they know what’s expected and gain skills that are needed for college-level learning,” Lewis said. “So it’s a bridge between high school and college.

“We work with developing time management, test taking, communication and study skills, stress management, goal setting, managing personal finance, college and career exploration,” Lewis added.

The McClure Foundation also helps to provide transportation to the class, class materials, and marketing outreach.

After completing the course, students receive dual enrollment vouchers from the state to take free college classes to explore study tracks. “They get three college credits from the class and they get to see if that is what they would like to do before they commit,” Lewis said.

Lewis said students who are not interested in college but still want to learn practical job skills are often steered to vocational centers.

Alexander Allison, 14, of Marshfield, who is home-schooled by his mother, said the Introduction to College Studies class helped him with time management and setting goals.

“I thought the class was highly effective,” Allison said. “We also talked about career exploration, different job opportunities and how many jobs were available. The class really helped me pick and focus on a career in the future. I also learned about college costs, what’s out there and how to pay for them.”

Allison keeps goats at home and said he’s interested in becoming a veterinarian. “I’m really interested in animal care. I’ve done a small internship down the road at a farm that has goats.”

Twinfield Union School student Isabella Lo Re, 15, of Plainfield, added, “I think the class was very helpful, going into subjects we don’t cover in school that much. It helped me understand what I need to do to get to college.

“The class made me aware of the many options to get scholarships and money for college and get around the economic barrier,” Lo Re said. “I’m not very sure now, but I’m thinking of going into either writing or marketing.”

For information, visit www.mcclurevt.org/pathways.

stephen.mills@timesargus.com