MONTPELIER -- Four Vermont schools are going to be taking part in a program designed to get more girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math programs that could help lead them to well-paying jobs in fields that have not traditionally been filled by women.

The Vermont Education Agency is providing $2,000 grants -- and seeking matching grants -- for schools in Barre, Essex, Middlebury and Newport to help them develop programs that could eventually be shared with other schools.

The educators involved in the program will receive professional development, technical assistance, and access to ideas from a national network through The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, a group designed to ensure that women and men get the same opportunities.

"It's trying to make sure that we're providing a well-trained workforce for the employers, for business and industry in the state of Vermont, but it can also help us ensure that Vermont is able to compete and contribute on a national level," said Jay Ramsey, the education agency's CTE workgroup coordinator, said Friday after the program was announced.

Ramsey said that while women make up about half the workforce, the well-paying STEM professions are about 76 percent men. The agency's STEM Equity Pipeline Project is another way for Vermont's career centers to develop offerings that will help girls and women pursue jobs they might not otherwise have considered.

"We're hoping for partnerships and to get communities more involved in their schools," said Education Agency Spokeswoman Angela Ross.


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"The governor has been doing listening tours around Vermont and what he's hearing from business and industry is that when students graduate they don't necessarily have the skill set that our businesses here in Vermont need."

One way to address that shortfall is to get girls and young women involved in the non-traditional fields.

Each of the four pilot sites will receive $2,000 grants. The agency is also seeking private sector partners to provide a matching grant.