Montpelier got a little closer to Essex Jct. last Wednesday when members of Gov. Phil Scott’s cabinet visited the Center for Technology Essex as part of the governor’s “Capitol for a Day” initiative.
“I call it a listening tour,” Vt. Department of Labor commissioner Lindsay Kurrle said. “There have been many instances on our tour that we’ve learned about little barriers that are easy to fix … it’s shown me how important it is to regularly get around the state.”
The tour began in June and will take the governor and his cabinet to all 14 counties. According to Kurrle, its crux is to examine the state’s workforce and support its workers.
“We want to keep Vermonters in Vermont,” she said.
The CTE visit helped Kurrle and fellow administration officials witness different paths to careers.
“There are so many excellent careers in Vermont that require trades training,” Kurrle said, adding she was inspired by the CTE students’ focus and dedication to their studies.
For CTE director Bob Travers, the visit was an opportunity to help put a face to both his and the center’s name for cabinet members.
“Tech centers are a lot more dynamic than what can be conveyed in conversation,” he said, adding the tour is more impactful than correspondence he’s had with the state.
“I want to show them programs that typify our relationship with employers that have had success in preparing our students for college and career,” he added.
Travers paraded cabinet members through the halls of CTE in 15 minutes, showing the group computer animation and web design classes, engineering classes and the dental assistant lab.
Three officials stayed behind for an extended tour, visiting the 25 homes CTE students built on Taft Street and Drury Drive. Economic development commissioner Joan Goldstein was among them and was struck by the number of homes and the strength of CTE’s program.
“It was truly remarkable and so impressive, and I just think it’s fantastic,” Goldstein said. “The kids who graduated from that [program] have jobs and real-world experience, and they added to the housing stock which is so sorely needed in Vermont.”
Travers then took his guests to the tech center’s oldest building, home of its Future Farmers of America chapter and HVAC program, which Travers would like to see replaced with a new structure.
During the tour, Goldstein asked Travers what he’d put on his wishlist for CTE. Travers easily responded with his desire to build a career technology high school.
He said such an institution would “level the playing field” and decrease the stigma of attending a tech school. But, state law would have to change so that students could opt-in to career tech education as early as ninth grade, he added. In many schools, students can make the switch from traditional high school to career tech education after their sophomore year.
“The answers aren’t easy because there’s a finite amount of money in the state,” Travers said. He hoped meeting with members of Scott’s cabinet would spark future conversations between the state and career tech education.
Indeed, Goldstein said the governor and his cabinet share findings from the Capitol for a Day tour and discuss potential needs for upcoming legislative sessions.
“We start thinking about what are things we either need to change or extend or expand,” she said. “It’s important that people who work really hard … share those success stories with people who need to know and people who may have the ability to influence policy.”
At CTE, Travers was pleased to have highlighted growth and success with Scott’s staff.
“Career and technology education isn’t just for students that can’t do high school,” he said. “I think they saw that.”