At Tech Jam, Workers Seek Opportunities To Stay In Vermont

Oct 27, 2014

Young Vermonters often leave the state in search of higher-paying opportunities in big cities, but increasingly, tech and engineering jobs are available right here.

At Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium, job seekers showed up with resumes in hand, and companies were ready to greet them.

Much has been said about Burlington’s growing tech industry, and nowhere did it seem more robust than the eighth annual Vermont Tech Jam.

The event was part job fair, part tech expo and featured over 40 employers with current openings. Those fields ranged from healthcare I.T. to graphic design to software development.

"Lots of resumes, lots of worried folks. They like working there, but they're just uncertain of what's going to happen." - MyWebGrocer Recruiter Glen Gehrkens, on talking with current IBM employees

And it’s important to note how broad a term “tech” has become. Cathy Resmer is an associate publisher at Seven Days and one of the event’s organizers.

She says there are some unexpected fields under that umbrella.

Manufacturing, for one. Resmer noted Mack Molding, a manufacturing company based in Arlington.

“They’re making very high-end medical and industrial manufacturing equipment,” said Resmer. “But they’re also looking for engineers. Some of the same types of people you might need at IBM.”

Talk of IBM was very much in the air. The job fair came less than a week after the company announced its chip division, including the plant in Essex Junction, will be sold to the California-based company GlobalFoundries.

While Global Foundries has indicated the Essex jobs aren’t going anywhere yet, some IBM workers here say they’re skeptical. They’re looking for other options.

Glen Gehrkens, a recruiter for Winooski-based MyWebGrocer, says he’s spoken to quite a few current IBM employees.

Lots of resumes, lots of worried folks,” said Gehrkens. “They like working there, but they’re just uncertain of what’s going to happen.”

He also noted he was surprised at how many young people, middle schoolers even, showed up. Gehrkens says an event like this may shed light on what opportunities exist in Vermont.

"For me it's more the job than the location. I can make anywhere work if I love my job." -Emily Miller, UVM senior

“I think it goes back to trying to get them to realize what’s here,” he said. “You don’t have to leave the state in seven or eight years after your graduate.”

Still, some job seekers aren’t so sure. Emily Miller is a senior engineering student at UVM. She says it’d be nice to stay here, but not necessary.

“For me it’s more the job than the location. I can make anywhere work if I love my job,” said Miller.

For Miller and others like her, it’s up to Vermont companies to offer the kinds of jobs that inspire graduates to stay.