Ventriss Op-ED: Summer Study: Connecting Business, Educators, and Students to Prime Vermont’s Talent Pipeline

by Lisa Ventriss, President, Business Roundtable

The Roundtable and strategic partners[1] in the Vermont Talent Pipeline Management[2] project (VTPM) are heavily involved in the roll out of two employer collaboratives, one in construction and the other health care, aimed at increasing the availability of and access to skilled workers for the most critical roles in these vital industries. Taken together, over 50 geographically-diverse companies have agreed to engage in a demand planning process that creates short-term projections of job openings based on a set of assumptions chosen by the employers. Those data will be aggregated and talent flows analyzed to determine where their best hires are being produced, then competencies and credentials will be communicated to the education and training provider communities across Vermont with the express goal of closing our workforce gaps. Already, 40+ public/private/not for profit educators and workforce training providers have stepped forward to indicate their strong willingness to partner on VTPM.

The enthusiasm and commitment to this project from groups around the state has been extremely gratifying. VTPM is a pillar of the Agency of Commerce’s strategic work plan; the State Workforce Development Board (SWDB) has endorsed this initiative; and the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation, a supporting organization of the Vermont Community Foundation, has awarded funding during our pilot phase. The Roundtable has adopted college and career readiness and VTPM as our strategic foci for the next several years. Indeed, the flywheel has begun spinning in a more coordinated fashion.

Complementing VTPM are other worthy statewide and regional programs that engage students and businesses in the progression from career awareness, to exploration and preparation. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with their representatives, including

The Governor’s Institute of Vermont’s session on Architecture, Design, and Building, in which students spent a week at Norwich University exploring the world of concrete, masonry, and wood to turn their design ideas into useable objects and habitable space. A sliding fee scale makes their 12 institutes – which focus on the intersection of student interests and Vermont workforce needs – accessible to more than 600 students annually. (

The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps focuses on the platform of agriculture and conservation, as a workforce development strategy that enhances students’ leadership, teamwork, job training skills, and personal responsibility. Small, diverse groups of young people work on significant projects that set high expectations, require hard work, and employ crew-oriented activities. More than 6,000 young people have participated in VYCC’s programs over its 30-year history. (

The Global Leadership Program, an Essex High School Academy, is an interdisciplinary program focused on cross-cultural competency, leadership development, and language acquisition. Globally-focused coursework, internships, and activities link students’ personal, academic, and pre-professional goals. ( ).

The TIPS program – Training Interns and Partnering for Success– is a student internship program aligned with Vermont’s Act 77, which provides youth with an opportunity to learn pre-employment skills, participate in an internship with a local business, and attain high school proficiencies. This program, which benefits both students and businesses, runs in Chittenden, Franklin, Rutland, and Windsor counties. (

All of this is intended to demonstrate that much energy is being brought to bear on connecting the business and education communities in a more coordinated and deliberate manner. With Act 77 as a framework for experiential and proficiency-based learning, businesses have the opportunity and, indeed, the obligation, to begin a substantive relationship with educators that can illuminate students’ pathways to college or career.

The Vermont Business Roundtable’s College and Career Readiness Task Force aims to connect members with students, teachers, and programs statewide to fulfill our vision of making Vermont the best place in America to do business, be educated, and live life. And because educators, especially Work-based Learning Coordinators and Career and Technical Education Centers, are increasingly hungry to establish relationships with employers in their regions, I strongly encourage you to consider ways for your business to engage, particularly in those communities that are resource scarce. We owe it to the next generations of young Vermonters.

[1] Vermont Department of Economic Development; Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation; Franklin/Grand Isle Workforce Investment Board; and Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce Workforce Collaborative.

[2] Model developed by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation