Service sector

Vt. Social service nonprofits battle for vacancies

BURLINGTON, Vermont (WCAX) — As Vermont’s statewide workforce crisis continues, social service nonprofits have been hit especially hard. One in seven Vermonters works for a nonprofit, according to United Way, but many organizations have faced staffing challenges since the pandemic began.

Champlain Valley Head Start teachers and staff gathered Friday before the start of the school year. The program is currently seeking 10 of the roughly 60 positions it typically employs.

“I’ve been the only consistent teacher since January for my kids so it’s a lot of work for me because for lack of a better word I’m the only one they trust,” Em Hammond said. The pre-school teacher says that since January six support teachers have left, many citing work stress. The program is part of the struggling Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.

“We work with a vulnerable population of people who deserve to have their needs met and where we don’t have all of our staff on board to ensure these services are provided to families and supported as they deserve. being is heartbreaking and difficult,” said Christine Gilliam, associate director of Champlain Valley Head Start.

It’s a similar story to the Committee for Temporary Shelter, or COTS. Out of 60 posts, 17 are vacant, ie almost a third of their staff. Sometimes they had to take fewer customers, those who struggle to find accommodation or even a hot meal.

“People are working extra manpower, trying to serve more customers, bigger customer loads, working really, really hard to fill in the gaps where we have staff shortages,” Rebekah Mott said. of COTS.

The Howard Center is one of the most recognizable names in mental health and addictions in the region. They have 241 vacancies out of their normal load of 1,100 employees. “It’s frustrating for us as an agency, as an employer. It’s really hard on the people we serve,” said Catherine Simonson, of the center. She says they don’t expect the problem to subside anytime soon. They focus on special incentives, active recruitment and work to retain staff who are already extending. “The waits are longer than before and that’s a big part of what our street outreach team has to negotiate – it’s once they have someone saying, ‘Yes, you can get me. help with that” – being able to be sure that there will be someone on the other end who will be available to help them.

Systemically high vacancy rates among nonprofits are what United Way Northwest Vermont hopes to rectify. They’re investigating salaries and learning why they’re not getting enough applicants. “We’re not immune there and we have the increased stress of being the ones looking after people who have limited incomes in other places as well, so again we’re really trying to defend the sector itself,” said group CEO Jesse Bridges.