by Betsy Bishop
EAST MONTPELIER – The last two years have changed our communities and how we do business. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermont businesses rallied, innovated, and pivoted. Still, not every business was able to stay open. And now, as we work to recover from the health crisis and economic downturn, a severe labor shortage spans across every industry.
There is a long road ahead, with business operations and consumer expectations permanently changed. The health of our state’s economy and workforce depends on the evolution of our businesses and continued support from government leaders. In 2022, the Vermont Chamber will focus on the most pressing issue that our businesses are facing: growing and retaining Vermont’s workforce to address our labor shortage.
In every policy discussion, we plan to evaluate the impact on Vermont’s economic and workforce growth. We will continue advocating for continued or increased support for funding training programs and retain training programs like the Vermont Training Program and Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act that give Vermonters the ability to up-skill and enter high-need industries like manufacturing, information technology, and health care.
We support the Vermont Futures Project recommendation to strengthen the career technical education system so that more high school students can pursue post-graduation career opportunities, including through alternative funding and governance models and integrated academic offerings focused on expanding the workforce supply.
The Vermont Chamber has long supported funding relocation grants, and this program is even more important now as the labor shortage puts pressure on an insufficient number of workers.
In 2022, we will continue pushing for a military retirement pay tax exemption. Better incentivizing military retirees to move to Vermont would increase the diversity of our communities while also strengthening our workforce.
For years, the Vermont Chamber has supported additional funding for refugee resettlement in Vermont. Welcoming refugees to our state is part of the Vermonter spirit, helps our economy, and grows our workforce when we need it most.
Employers have worked to reduce barriers to workforce participation, specifically in second chance hiring for Vermonters entering the workforce after struggling with addiction or leaving the corrections system. We need all Vermonters to participate in the workforce, and employers need support to understand the needs of these workers and support them as they return to the workforce.
We will continue supporting investments in childcare to make it easier for parents to work and to attract new families to Vermont. Available and affordable childcare is not just a business issue – it impacts all Vermonters, and the Chamber will work with partners across sectors to find a sustainable solution.
We need to increase the overall amount of housing units in Vermont while also focusing on creating housing options for lowand middle-income Vermonters to grow and retain our workforce.
The Vermont Chamber is also focused on making Vermont an equitable and inclusive state, where all feel welcome. Political attention to Vermont business issues and aid for them must also continue. We will advocate and use our strengths to position Vermont businesses for success. In 2022, supporting our state’s economy and growing our workforce is paramount.