State offers tuition-free training and certification for select high-demand job sectors

The new Vermont Trades Scholarship Forgivable Loan Program, proposed by Gov. Phil Scott to the Vermont Legislature and administered by Vermont Student Assistance Corp. (VSAC), will offer funding for tuition, initial licensing fees, and exam fees for qualified recipients who enroll in high-need trades training and certificate programs.

Funding for the $3 million trades scholarship program is part of the $84.5 million comprehensive workforce and economic development initiative enacted in June.

The new law invests both state and federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to address Vermont's workforce shortage and provide local businesses and municipalities with resources to grow in the years ahead.

In a news release, Scott called the program “an opportunity to change our course for the better, to grow our workforce and support our communities in their continued recovery and revitalization.”

The new program, open to Vermont and non-Vermont residents alike, will help meet the acute need for more trained workers in Vermont in select building, mechanical, industrial, or medical trades; emergency services; energy, including clean energy, energy efficiency, or weatherization; transportation; broadband; robotics; and other high-demand sectors.

The program also funds scholarships and forgivable loans for eligible students pursuing careers in early childhood education, nursing, dentistry, mental health care, and other critical fields.

Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis until all funds have been awarded. Programs beginning after Sept. 1 are eligible.

The funding will be awarded to qualifying applicants with financial needs on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds have been depleted. Applicants must register with the Vermont Department of Labor for the purpose of receiving relevant job referrals, if unemployed.

Awards will come in the form of an interest-free loan, which is forgiven when the recipient signs a promissory note and completes working in their profession in Vermont for a minimum of one year following licensure or certification completion for each year of funding received.

802 Opportunity, in combination with state and federal grant aid, will cover tuition for all credits in a degree program of the student's choice, as well as the $100 administrative fee. The grant does not cover lab and studio fees, books, or other supplies.

Nearly 2,000 students at Community College of Vermont (CCV) have taken advantage of the program in its first year.

Eligible Vermonters can also use the VSAC Advancement Grant program, which funds training in a non-degree program or short-term training program that will enhance job skills.

The 802 Opportunity Grant provides free tuition to Vermonters with a household income of $75,000 or less who do not already have a bachelor's degree. The grant is available to new or returning students of any age.

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