The Vermont Environmental Consortium (VEC) recently conducted an important survey of Vermont's Environmental Business Sector. The project, funded by grants from the Vermont Community Foundation and the Redducs Foundation, established current conditions with respect to environmental business education and training needs and the opportunities and resources available in Vermont to meet those needs. The survey also addressed sustainability practices of businesses and educational institutions and the value to members and potential members of the Vermont Environmental Consortium. Responses were received from 250 firms and 100 educational and training institutions. Key Findings:
Nearly 19,500 people are directly employed by responding firms in Vermont's environmental sector. While the majority of firms have fewer than four employees, 13% of firms reported more than 100 employees. Forty percent of firms earn less than $250,000 in annual revenue while 12% report annual revenue of $2 million or more.
One of the ways in which Vermont's environmental sector can grow is by increasing the value of goods and services exported by Vermont firms to other states and countries. Sixty percent of firms provide goods or services outside of Vermont, and close to 20% of firms provide goods or services outside of the United States. Over half the responding firms expect to grow their environmental business over the next five years with only 5% expecting to shrink.
Vermont firms rely on a mix of specialized and non-specialized workers. Although more than half of firms report that lack of access to specialized employees limits their growth, growing the sector will require a tiered labor force with high, middle and entry level skills. Currently, nearly one out of every five firms report difficulty filling project manager positions and one out of six can't find qualified field technicians. A quarter of all firms find their growth stymied by lack of access to support services. One-third of all Vermont environmental firms contract for support services with out-of-state companies, leaking dollars from Vermont.
Over one-third of firms indicated there was training that would be useful to them that they have not been able to find in Vermont, identifying 68 different types of trainings. Less than a quarter of Vermont education and training respondents reported collaborating with Vermont environmental sector businesses to develop training courses or programs. Technical High Schools were the most likely type of institution to have collaborated. In general, Vermont education and training institutions report that more education and training options of relevance to firms in the environmental sector are directed toward young people (college age and below) than toward professionals. There are forty education/training topics required by firms for which there are no continuing education options available. In addition, there are several certifications needed by Vermont firms that are not being offered by responding institutions.
The majority of firms reported that green and sustainable practices are very important to them and more than 80% of firms reported adopting recycling and energy efficiency practices. One quarter of firms are certified by a third party certifying organization. Examples of certifications include: BPI Building Performance Institute, Forest Stewardship Council and organic certifications.
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