Five major construction projects have been given the green light in the Northeast Kingdom. Over the next few years over a thousand jobs are expected to be created. In a region with a traditionally higher unemployment rate than the rest of the state, that should be great news.
But a new report says candidates for these jobs- mostly in the hospitality sector- could be difficult to find.
Cindy Robillard is with the Vermont Department of Labor. She’s part of the team assisting employers in the Northeast Kingdom to find job-ready workers. Robillard says one challenge is the lack of job retention in the hospitality industry:
“Historically I think people have sort of entered the hospitality arena by default. Often people take jobs as young adults- serving, waiting tables- often they’re sort of short term. What we’d like to be able to do is have people elect hospitality as a choice,” says Robillard.
That wasn’t the only challenge identified in the report. Though many of the new jobs require very little training, employers reported a lack of workers with basic job skills.
Robillard says employers identified qualities that make for a trainable candidate:
“Strong basic skills, strong reliability, solid transportation plan. And just a really good basic work ethic,” says Robillard.
She says there is still time to train Vermonters who want to work before these projects come online.
But for higher level jobs, Robillard says the state may have to look outside Vermont for competitive candidates that could start work immediately.
“There probably will be some influx of workers for maybe higher skilled positions or specific positions that are harder to find,” Robillard says, "If there is a need in the immediate future”
The report points to existing training programs and more educational training for students as potential solutions to the gap in job readiness.
About 5.7 percent of Northeast Kingdom residents are unemployed, compared with 4.4 percent statewide.