Recently, Gov. Jim Douglas and I met with 16 university students from Pakistan.The first question they asked was "What is Vermonts most pressing problem?"The governor answered, "demographics."
Gov. Douglas explained that Vermont has the second oldest population and the lowest birth rate of any state in our country. Combined, these two statistics present a major dilemma.
"Are there jobs in Vermont?" one inquired. The governor answered yes, especially in certain fields: engineering, medicine, high tech manufacturing and the service industries.
In fact, Vermont employers are having trouble finding the skilled workers to fill those jobs, and our state's economy is challenged as a result.
So it was good news last week when the governor announced his new initiative to persuade young, out-of-state Vermonters and graduates of our colleges and universities to return here to live, work and raise families.
Results of an April survey showed that many of them want to return to Vermont, but are worried about finding a good job and an affordable place to live.
Under the governor's plan, well work with Vermonts employers to host networking events around the region and to launch an interactive web portal designed to deliver news about jobs, housing, recreational and social events to young workers. Well also ask Vermont colleges and universities for help in reaching alumni, and creating internships for students to work with Vermont companies.
An aging population and shortage of skilled workers is a growing problem across our nation, but our second-oldest state rank and lowest birth rate require Vermont to face the challenge first.
The Pakistani students asked if they could come to Vermont. The governor explained that he thought it would be very difficult. He explained that our federal government is responsible for immigration policy.
That made me think.
Like many Americans, I have watched the immigration debate in Washington with disappointment. Its Washingtons responsibility to maintain the sovereignty of our nation's borders, and they havent. The southern border is porous and has been virtually open for many years. As a result, 12 million people are currently in our country illegally. States along our southern border are overwhelmed as they try to provide human services. Hospital emergency rooms are swamped. Crime rates in border-states have exploded. Meanwhile, immigration debate has polarized our already-polarized national politics. Congress and the Administration have each dug in their heels and have not moved to find common ground. We are not in control of our borders.