Swanton, VT — At Vermont Precision Tools Inc., state officials and business leaders discussed the workforce challenges facing the state, as well as investments made this year to help address them.

Governor Phil Scott talked about how the new budget includes millions of dollars for education and training. “We have more jobs available then we have people to fill them,” Scott said.

It’s a challenge that Vermont Precision Tools has seen firsthand.

“With less workers we have to make decisions every day about what new orders we can take and what new orders we have to turn down, and to replace those lost workers we have a huge skills gap to overcome for those looking to enter the workforce for the first time,” said Monica Greene, President and CEO of Vermont Precision Tools.

That is where a new bill comes in, as it will provide $84.5 million that will expand the state’s workforce, education and training initiatives while urging new economic development projects.

$3 million will go to recruiting new employees, with grants to cover moving expenses under the new relocating worker program.

“We hope in refunding this program, with the largest investment to date, it will continue to help us recruit new Vermonters to settle in all corners in our state,” said Lindsay Kurrle, Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

$10 million will be used for grants, loans, and loan forgiveness to ease healthcare worker shortages in the state.

“Time and time again we heard from this new practice group of nurses that the financial considerations were key in their thinking about where they would live and ultimately work, and so scholarship and loan repayment are opportunities for these professionals, will move our state into a more competitive recruiting and retaining position,” said Ena Backus, Director of Health Care Reform at the Vermont Agency of Human Services.

Also announced on Tuesday, is the expansion of 802 Opportunity, which allows families earning less than $75,000 per year to attend the Community College of Vermont tuition-free.

“Often times when we think of these programs we think of traditional students but the real beneficiaries are working adults often times working in jobs struggling to make ends meet, needing skills in order to get the next promotion or job.”

According to state data, Vermont will need 2,000 workers in the next two years in manufacturing.