Fast Tracks to Success: Workforce and Education Training Fund Establishes Career Development Programming in Windham County
After nearly two years of research, surveys, meetings, and fundraising, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. is launching a new SeVEDS Workforce Development program in collaboration with regional employers and education partners.
The Fast Tracks to Success program is supported by an $18,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Labor. It will be implemented throughout all four Windham Region High Schools, and is designed to increase youth engagement in and knowledge of the local job market. William Anton, incoming Superintendent of Windham Central Supervisory Union, commended BDCC on focusing on bringing more opportunity to Windham Region schools, saying "It's so important to give students the opportunity to see the connection between workforce necessary skills and what they are doing everyday in schools. I applaud BDCC for continuing to look for ways to partner with local schools and elevate the opportunities for our students."
In 2013, the creation of a federally recognized Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, or CEDS, in Windham County identified the need to cultivate, retain, and attract a high quality workforce. The regional workforce partnership, created in response to this need, is a network of committees that meet regularly to share best practices, identify needs, and proffer region-wide solutions. Two research surveys have been conducted through these networks, a 5-year hiring inventory and career menu survey.
The hiring inventory was developed utilizing an in depth survey of 35 of the Windham Region's largest employers, as well as a confidence survey in smaller businesses. The surveying asked employers to catalog by job type their projected workforce need over the next five years when accounting for retirement, normal turnover, and growth needs. The results of this 2014 survey indicate there will be more than 3,000 job openings in the fields of Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, Social & Human Services, Green Building and Related Services, and Tourism/Hospitality over the next 5 years due to retirement, growth, and regularly occurring churn.
The career menu survey was a research tool used to explore the existing strengths and opportunities within regional High Schools in providing additional Career Development programming to students. All four Windham Region high schools, as well as Regional Career and Tech Centers, participated in the survey, and helped identify current gaps or weaknesses in existing offerings. Above all else, career and guidance counselors agreed that students lack consistent awareness about the existing careers and employment opportunities that are available to them within the region.
The Fast Tracks to Success Program will provide supplemental curricula and logistical support to Leland & Gray High School, Bellows Falls Union High School, Twin Valley Middle-High School, and Brattleboro Union High School, including arranging and facilitating field trips to local employers. Ron Stahley, Superintendent of Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, says "This is a great opportunity for our schools to expand our partnerships with local businesses and support students to develop the concrete skills, behaviors and knowledge needed to pursue their desired occupation or career path in this economic region."