Vergennes Tech Company on the Hunt for Workers
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Posted by: Jeff Couture
The challenges faced by employers when it comes to Vermont's aging and often unskilled workforce are well documented. Now a Vergennes company is trying to buck that trend.
UTC Collins Aerospace has between 75 and 80 job openings right now, but it was double that just a couple months ago. The global technology company wants Vermonters to know it's here and it's hiring.
"I found love in Vermont," said Yeasin Bhuiyan, who took a mechanical engineering job at Collins Aerospace. He says he immediately fell in love with the landscape and tight-knit community after moving from South Carolina last October, and that it's felt like home ever since. "I did some Google search and I saw beautiful pictures of Vermont -- oh, nice fall color."
Bhuiyan says the position was perfect. "It was kind of my childhood dream," he said. "This is a great company, it's a stable company. One of the top aerospace companies in the whole world."
"All of our Collins Aerospace jobs are livable wage. We offer great benefits and paid time off," said Amy Puglise, the company's senior human resources manager. She says the company employs more than 900 people in Vermont and continues to grow. Despite its success, the company says one of the biggest challenges they face is recruiting in-state workers. They say that's because many Vermonters don't even realize it's here, right in their back yard. "We have VTC, we have UVM, both have really great engineering programs, it's just getting word out that these jobs are available."
Puglise says the lower-end manufacturing positions only require a high school diploma or GED and a willingness to learn. The company also has an employee scholar program, helping workers pursue a degree after a year there. "I think the perception was that to come into Collins Aerospace you needed to have an advanced degree or a lot of experience, and that's not necessarily the case," she said.
"When you see a company like that has 100 job openings, that's a lot," said University of Vermont economist Art Woolf. He says the company is an example of how to improve Vermont's workforce challenges. "Rather than kind of proactive doing things that we think will bring people here, let's try to look at the things that are keeping people from coming here and reduce those negatives."
And Collins Aerospace says once workers see the positives of living here, they won't want to leave.
"We're doing great here, and this is one of the largest, best performing locations that we have, so I would have to say that we're here for the long-term," Puglise said.
"I love to live here, this is such a great place, so why would you think of leaving?" Bhuiyan said.
The company says it hopes to get the word out to young Vermonters at local tech centers and in STEM programs that they are looking for employees.