BY BETSY THURSTON, The Shopper November 6, 2019
REGION – Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation and their affiliate Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies recognized the need to integrate education systems to align with employer demands so they created Pipelines and Pathways Program, or P3, a five-year pilot program. Executive Director Adam Grinold said, “The pipelines [employers] need pathways [students] and P3 brings the two together.” Grinold, a resident of Wilmington, has worked with BDCC since 2014. He is a 1995 graduate of Castleton State College and is also on the Board of Trustees for State Colleges.
Pathways and Pipelines coordinator Christy Betit joined BDCC in 2018 when they first launched P3. She works directly with guidance teams, work-based learning coordinators, superintendents and school administrators, educators, employer partners, and students of four Windham County high schools: Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Twin Valley, and Leland & Gray.
The first year was spent primarily gathering information about what is happening within each school in regards to career education, identifying the gaps to be filled, and providing soft skills training from professional appearance and body language to preparing for mock interviews.
Betit explained the big picture goal for all of Windham County is to start career awareness and preparation programs early in students’ educational career and revisit them often. P3’s ultimate goal is to ensure that every student is ready to begin college or a quality entry level career upon graduation. Grinold said, “Many high school students go to college but can come back to succeed in Vermont.”
Students navigate the “Scope and Sequence Tool to Success” that includes eight steps: dream, plan, prepare, practice, polish, grow, support, and succeed. Some of these activities are already happening within the schools. BFUHS school counselor Mark Gebo said, “They have supported and complimented the guidance program with resume development and collaboration with local manufacturers.”
Betit and Gebo meet monthly for career spotlights, bringing industry panels of experts from various career clusters to the school. For example, they explored health science where professionals in the field showed students the path of education from a licensed nursing assistant to becoming a doctor through question and answer sessions, worksite tours, job shadowing, and co-ops.
October was National Manufacturing Month, and students found real life opportunities with worksite tours at Commonwealth Dairy, True North Granola, Omega Optical, and Fulflex, all located in Brattleboro. Upcoming tours have been scheduled for G.S. Precision in Brattleboro and Sonnax, Whitney Blake, and Chroma in Rockingham, all with different schools and students. Each month, the BDCC hopes to highlight a different career and visit as many local, quality employers as possible. Grinold said, “There are amazing jobs here in manufacturing.”
Betit shared, “One of the most gratifying parts of my job is to hear how deeply all of our community members care about the success of our youth population. With input, enthusiasm, and commitment from all of our stakeholders, P3 aims to provide a framework that will improve graduation outcomes for all Windham youth.”
Other skill trainings include the annual Sophomore Summit and Interactive Reality Fair, which allows high school students to choose a career, receive a mock paycheck, and problem-solve to pay for their lifestyle in that chosen field.
The 7th annual Southern Vermont Career Expo was held Oct. 17, and it gave students the ability to network, seek career advice, and apply for jobs. Alex Beck, workforce and education specialist said, “Despite the rain, we had a great turnout from community members throughout the tri-state area. Over 150 job seekers attended and we’re already hearing back about job offers and new hires coming out of the event.”
BDCC serves as the Vermont’s certified regional development corporation for Windham County, one of 12 in Vermont. Their primary goal is to retain businesses with vibrant fiscal activity while improving quality of life for residents in southeastern Vermont. SeVEDS is an affiliate of BDCC and develops workforce initiatives in the region.
For more information about the program, go to www.brattleborodevelopment.com.