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Vt. trades apprenticeship program holds first graduation

In the midst of a statewide labor shortage, seven tradesmen became certified in sheet metal, pipe fitting, and HVAC services.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 5:20 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2022 at 8:31 AM EDT
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WINOOSKI, Vt. (WCAX) - In the midst of a statewide labor shortage, seven tradesmen became certified in sheet metal, pipe fitting, and HVAC services as part of a new public/private-sector apprenticeship program.

Seven VHV employees Tuesday received new certifications during the apprenticeship graduation at the company’s Winooski headquarters. It comes at a time when Vermont needs their help.

“It was just kind of something new to try,” said new graduate Per Fjeld of Sailsbury. He was already employed at the mechanical contracting company and decided to add to his list of credentials. all seven graduates have a different backgrounds, some coming from more traditional tech schools, too. And getting certified in sheet metal, pipe fitting, and HVAC has not been an easy feat. The program required 8,000 hours of on-the-ground work and four years of classroom study.

“It’s work. It would take an extra eight or so hours a week -- an hour up and an hour back -- if I was working down there or if I was working up here it would save a bit of time,” Fjeld said.

The company provides services including HVAC, plumbing, refrigeration, and other construction for commercial and industrial properties. In 2017 they were awarded an over $80,000 grant from the state to establish their apprenticeship program. This is the first graduating class and it is free for students.

Vermont Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle says the state is down 11,000 employees in the construction industry. “You may not realize it fully but creating and enrolling in this program, you’re helping solve some of Vermont’s biggest challenges,” she told graduates.

Josh Reap with the Associated Builders and Contractors New Hampshire/Vermont says apprenticeship programs like this help incentivize people to explore the trades right at home. “We need more people to enter these trades because you don’t need to go to college outside the state and you could stay right here in Vermont and earn a great living and have a great pathway to a great opportunity,” he said.

And the next step for these graduates? “Keep working. There are always more things to get certified in, too,” Fjeld said.

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