A year after Governor Peter Shumlin called for a meeting of the minds on how to improve Vermont’s manufacturing base, the Agency Of Commerce And Community Development has issued its report.
While it’s partly prescriptive – in the form of recommendations – it’s also descriptive in its effort to paint a clearer picture of manufacturing in Vermont:
- Most of the state’s manufacturers are small. 60% have fewer than 10 employees.
- Manufacturing employs 31,300 Vermonters. That’s down from 44,000 15 years ago.
- Average wages for manufacturing jobs are 36% higher than average earnings in Vermont ($51,829 vs. $38,124).
Despite manufacturing’s importance the report points out the sector doesn’t enjoy the same level of advocacy within state government as other economic interests. “Unlike value-added agriculture or forestry, there is no specific division or department for [manufacturing],” the report says.
To remedy this, the study recommends considering creating a new Manufacturing Division as part of the Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development.
The report’s central recommendations reflect the long recognized need for a work force that can meet the labor demands of today’s technologically-oriented manufacturers. The recommendations include:
- Create an education model for competency-based math standards for students and teachers that support advanced manufacturing skills.
- Develop entrepreneurship curricula in Vermont schools and state colleges.
- Create a special fund to upgrade the math skills of workers.
- Help create an “Innovation Ecosystem” which would provide practical research and development using the resources of the University of Vermont and other colleges.
- Develop a “Vermont Innovation Index” so the state can measure its success.
The report highlights a number of programs and initiatives in other Northeastern states it says Vermont would be wise to emulate.