Gov. Peter Shumlin speaks to students at Mountg Anthony Union High School on Wednesday about higher education and career choices during the second annual
Gov. Peter Shumlin speaks to students at Mountg Anthony Union High School on Wednesday about higher education and career choices during the second annual Bennington Career Week. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com)

BENNINGTON -- Gov. Peter Shumlin flew into Bennington on Wednesday for Mount Anthony Union High School's Second Annual Career Week. Students are taking 15 minutes out of each of their regular scheduled days this week to talk with various local -- and regional, counting Shumlin -- professionals.

"When I graduating high school, you could leave without going to college and you could make pretty good money," said Shumlin. "I can almost assure you that in this 21st century workforce, that is not true anymore. If you for whatever reason stop your school at the end of high school, you are signing yourself up for a lifetime of low-wage jobs."

The governor said he thinks a mistake that might be made in Vermont is not talking enough about education level and what kind of money somebody makes based on the career they choose.

"If you learn differently, or if you don't find schools that easy for you, it doesn't mean that you can't succeed. Go get some tech education get as far as you can, learn about these careers, what you can make, what choices you have and start thinking about it," Shumlin said to the group of about 40 students who were selected to a talk with the governor to learn about his job.

Shumlin also met with a group of about 25 MAU sophomores and juniors who are a part of the Community College of Vermont's "Emerging Leaders" program. Sitting at the main office conference table, the "Emerging Leaders" asked about what lies ahead for them.

"When you've finished growing up and have a degree beyond high school, we are going to have jobs here for you here when you are done. My message to all of you is that we don't just want you, we need you," said Gov. Shumlin. With a 3.7 percent unemployment rate and a reported 11,000 created jobs in the past three years, "our problem now is that we've moved from when I took office and didn't have enough jobs, to needing more workers to do the jobs we have."

MAU Community School Coordinator and "Emerging Leaders" Instructor Amy Beth Kessinger said, "What I think many of these students are starting to realize is that what you arrive at in your career is not a linear path, and that we need to seize all of the (educational), social and professional opportunities that exist."

She asked the governor, "can you share with the kids one job you had growing up that you look back on and think was really helpful to you?"

Shumlin said that like many students, he learned differently than most. In response to Kessinger, he said he needed to prove as a kid that he could make it. He started his own small business venture.

"When you learn differently than other kids, it may lower your self-esteem," said Shumlin. "I decided that I was going to make money and started a lawn-mowing business. Eventually I got so many jobs lined up that I started hiring people and paid them less than what I was charging. I figured out early that if you think outside of the box and work hard, you can learn how to succeed."

Wondering what opportunities might lie ahead, MAU sophomore Mackenzie Gallant asked, "do you think it's best that we get out of Vermont and go somewhere else in our lives?"

"I don't think it's bad that as part of your journey, you go and see some different things," Shumlin responded. "I did that. I went to school for two years in Boston and two years in Connecticut. By the time I was done I couldn't wait to get back to Vermont. If I had stayed in Vermont, I might have seen that differently. You have to decide what makes sense to you."

Shumlin pointed out that Vermonters have a high quality of life and plenty of job opportunities here for them. He said in his opinion the best thing about it is that people can have an open dialogue about Vermont's problems, including education, work and pay.

"The more you see of life outside of Vermont, in my experience, the more you will ... want to be in Vermont," said Shumlin. "You don't really appreciate what you have in life until you no longer have it."

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg