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House Passes Expansive Workforce Development Bill

H.703 brings a plethora of appropriations, new programs, and enhancements to existing programs in Vermont to improve workforce development. The bill is currently with the Senate. The following summary are the appropriated funding and policy concepts as supported by the House in March 2022.

The University of Vermont Office of Engagement, in consultation with the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, will receive $2,500,000 to administer a statewide forgivable loan program of $5,000.00 per graduate for recent college graduates across all Vermont higher education institutions who commit to work in Vermont for two years after graduation. The Agency of Human Services will receive $500,000 to provide grants to refugee or New American-focused programs working in Vermont to support increased in migration or retention of recent arrivals.

The career technical education (CTE) will receive $180,000 to complete a systematic examination of the existing funding structures and how these structures impede or promote the State’s educational and workforce development goals, the governance model of CTEs, and strategies for how to expand access to dual enrollment and adult education.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development will receive $250,000 to provide statewide delivery of business coaching and other forms of training to BIPOC business owners, networking and special convenings, career fairs, workshops and paid internships, career guidance, and other support for BIPOC workers across the State.

The Department of Labor will receive $1,500,000 to launch a pilot program to launch and lead a regional workforce expansion system to work toward accomplishing the following statewide goals: increase statewide labor participation rate; decrease the number of open positions reported by employers; increase the wages of workers as they transition to new jobs; increase job preparedness. The Department of Labor will also convene regional meetings of education, training, business, and service provider partners; coordinate local workforce information collection and distribution; and assist in developing localized career resources, such as information for career counseling, local job fairs, and career expos, that will be available to a wide range of stakeholders. The Service provider partners will include community partners who directly serve mature workers, youth, individuals with disabilities, individuals who have been involved with the correction system, BIPOC Vermonters, New Americans, and other historically marginalized populations in efforts to align service delivery, share information, and achieve greater employment outcomes for Vermonters.

Additionally, the Department of Labor will develop the statewide Work-Based Learning and Training Program. This program will serve transitioning secondary students, post-secondary students, and Vermonters seeking work-based experience as part of a career experience or change.

The Department of Corrections, in consultation with the Vermont Department of Labor, will receive $420,000 to facilitate the education and vocational training of incarcerated individuals so that they have a greater likelihood of obtaining gainful employment and positively contributing to society upon reintegration into the community. The Department will also receive $300,000 over three years to establish a community-based pilot reentry program at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. The program will provide continuity of services for incarcerated individuals by expanding current employment readiness and support programs, focusing on the first six months after individuals are released from the facility, and supporting individuals’ successful transition into the community.

The state will appropriate $15,000,000.00 from the Education Fund to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to create and administer the CTE Construction and Rehabilitation Experiential Learning Program and Revolving Loan Fund. This fund will support CTE centers in resourcing construction learning programs and building new housing or upfitting blighted properties in communities.

H.703 also makes an attempt to acknowledge the many struggles faced by healthcare workers, and examines how the pandemic has placed further strain on an already taxed system. In order to retain and recruit health care workers in Vermont, it is the intent of the General Assembly to invest in multiple solutions aimed at reinforcing our health care workforce in the present and sustaining our health care workers into the future. Some of these solutions include using $3,000,000 in ARPA funds to provide emergency interim grants to Vermont’s nursing schools over three years to increase the compensation for their nurse faculty and staff; as well as establishing or expanding partnerships with Vermont nursing schools to create a nursing pipeline or apprenticeship programs that will train members of the health care employers’ to become higher-level nursing professionals.

Additionally, to further support health care workers, H.703 is creating the Vermont Nursing Forgivable Loan Incentive Program and it will be administered by the Department of Health in collaboration with the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.

H.703 also addresses topics of mental health and substance use disorder by requiring The Office of Professional Regulation to undertake a systematic review of the barriers to licensure for professionals trying to treat mental health and substance use disorder.

The Department for Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation will receive $1,290,000 for the purpose of developing and implementing a two-year pilot program that authorizes FTE new limited-service positions embedded within recovery centers across the State.

Finally, H.703 provides $2,000,000 for the Vermont Serve, Learn and Earn program to support workforce development goals through creating meaningful paid service and learning opportunities for young adults.

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