Vt Gov Notes Job Training, Despite Few Jobless

By WILSON RING

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) â¿¿ A South Burlington electrical contractor that is hiring to meet burgeoning demand for its services has been meeting that demand with a state apprenticeship program that trains employees while they are working full time.

In the last 30 days, Omega Electrical Construction, Inc. has hired six to eight new employees, and over the last decade about 50 of its current 130 workers have come through the four-year apprenticeship program that was highlighted Wednesday by Gov. Peter Shumlin and other top officials, company officials said Wednesday.

With the economy growing, the company is the busiest that it's been in years, said Al Senecal, who has owned the business along with his wife, Cheryl, since 1990.

"It's difficult to find licensed electricians right now, so we're growing them ourselves," he said. "We've been hiring a lot of people."

Shumlin, speaking during a news conference at the company's headquarters near the Burlington International Airport, said the state has been working hard to ensure businesses have enough workers.

"I think it's worth celebrating that Vermont right now has the third-lowest unemployment rate in America. That doesn't happen by coincidence," Shumlin said.

In February Vermont's unemployment rate was 4.4 percent, tied for the third-lowest in the country.

There are a number of other programs that Shumlin highlighted, including programs for military veterans, on the job training, internship grants for high schools.

The Vermont Department of Labor says a number of industries are hiring, including manufacturing, health care, business and professional services. Openings are also expected in construction and related industries and businesses that cater to summer tourists.

The apprenticeship program that Omega is a part of hires untrained people. They work full time while attending classes. If all goes well, at the end of the four years the employee will graduate with an electrician's license. Omega pays the tuition for the classes that run three hours twice a week from September through March.

Before they are licensed, the employees will do work for the company that doesn't require a license. Currently, the company has about 20 employees in the training program, Senecal said.

"It's a very important part of our livelihood, quite frankly," Senecal said. "If we're not training young men and women to be the future, we just wouldn't be here. We wouldn't be able to do what we're doing without them because otherwise we'd be staffed with an old bunch of retirees."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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