Vermont’s low unemployment rate can make it hard for employers to find workers. But it can also open up doors for people who face employment barriers.
Wednesday morning at the Green Mountain Technology and Career Center, in Hyde Park, folks from across the Lamoille Valley gathered for Lamoille Works – a workforce development meetup. The room was filled with people from local schools, nonprofit organizations and government agencies that all help people find jobs, and help companies find employees.
The idea was to give these workforce development professionals a chance to meet, compare notes and collaborate. Among the attendees was John Mandeville, executive director of the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation.
"The unemployment rate, particularly in the state of Vermont, is very low – under 3 percent in most areas," Mandeville said in an interview, "which is way below what the federal government considers to be full employment. Full employment is considered to be 5 percent, generally speaking. And that means that there are a lot of jobs that are just not getting filled."
It also means there are more opportunities for the populations of job seekers working with the employment professionals at the Lamoille Works meetup. That includes people who lack specific skills or education, people who struggle with addiction or a lack of child care or transportation, and people with physical or mental disabilities.
"And employers are becoming more and more willing to think about supplying in-house training programs or paying for outside training," Mandeville added.
There’s also an increasing willingness to partner with government and social service agencies that work with would-be employees to find jobs. At the end of the Lamoille Works meetup, two such businesses were recognized by the Governor’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities with 2018 Spirit of the ADA Awards.
The awards are given to people at businesses around Vermont who reflect the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act in their hiring and workplace culture. Dan Keene, owner of McMahon Chevrolet Buick in Hyde Park, and Barbara Griswold, assistant executive housekeeper at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, were honored this week.
Griswold said working with a new employee who has a disability isn’t really much different from working with any new employee.
"Sometimes, the one thing I think about is my first job, and how there was always that one person that seemed to have a special interest in me and maybe paid a little more attention," Griswold said. "And I think that’s what we tried to do. And it seems to be working well."
Christian Terhune, who works for Griswold, is also happy with the situation.
"She’s amazing," he said of his boss. "I could not ask for a better one, personally."
Terhune says he’s been working at Trapp Family Lodge for about two years and he really likes it.
"It’s a very friendly environment here," Terhune said. "I never felt stress working here. It’s a very beautiful place, as well, ... very nice scenic views here."
Two towns over, in Hyde Park, McMahon Chevrolet Buick also worked with the state initiative Creative Workforce Solutions to place an employee in the dealership’s shop. Office manager Rosie Gillen said the employee was there for about a year.
"He worked in various positions," Gillen explained. "We tried different things with him. He started out in the shop, doing stuff around the shop. He drove for us, picked up parts, he cleaned. He worked with all the different departments and different employees and, yeah ... it worked out well."
Gillen says the employee, who they nicknamed "Gunslinger," liked driving and left to go earn a commercial driver's license.
That’s a smart move, according to Mandeville, with Lamoille Economic Development Corporation. He said there’s an especially big demand for CDL drivers in Vermont right now.
Disclosure: Trapp Family Lodge is a VPR underwriter.