Toby Talbot / AP Photo Gov. Peter Shumlin, center, holds a news conference Wednesday at Omega Electrical Construction Inc. in South Burlington. Omega has been working with the state to sponsor employees who get trained while working full time.
SOUTH BURLINGTON — 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, company officials said Wednesday, when Gov. Peter Shumlin and other top officials highlighted the program in a news conference.
With the economy growing, the firm is the busiest it’s been in years, said Al Senecal, who has owned the business 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 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 and internship grants for high schools.
The Vermont Department of Labor says a number of industries are hiring, including manufacturing, health care, and 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, which 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, Al Senecal said.
“It’s a very important part of our livelihood, quite frankly,” he 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.”
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