By Cindy Robillard, Business Services Manager, TAA/Rapid Response Coordinator, Vermont Department of Labor

 

As the new TAA Coordinator in Vermont, I have been extremely grateful for the many learning and mentoring opportunities that have been provided on the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Although I had many years of case management experience, my expertise with researching and filing petitions was minimal. As a state, Vermont had had a relatively low number of certified petitions in recent years, so one clear goal for me was to build capacity and knowledge in this area to increase the opportunities for TAA impacted workers in our state.

After a conference in Nashville, TN in July, 2019, where I heard a powerful presentation from the State of Oregon on the Navigator Model they had adopted to better serve their workers and employers, I was keenly interested in learning more. In fact, in my new role it has been a top priority. So, when I was contacted by the ETA to participate in the “TAA Petition Navigator Pilot Project”, I jumped at the opportunity. I was partnered with seasoned TAA Navigators from the State of Virginia who quickly began to learn more about layoffs that had occurred in Vermont in the past year. They reviewed our WARN notices and evaluated the key factors that would support a strong TAA petition. The VA team worked with me to locate recent petitions filed in other states, looked at trends in industries that were related in some way to the Vermont layoffs, and shared other resources to support filing on behalf of the worker groups. They were thorough and worked quickly to get six petitions filed prior to June 30, 2021.

I have come to better understand the obligation that I, and my staff, have to dig deeper with many of the layoffs that occur in our state. I have been shown some strategies and tools I can use to support my research, especially in cases where the company is reluctant to share key information. We have begun to have strategic planning conversations on how to re-fit the TAA program in Vermont to implement a Navigator model, possibly on a small scale, and increase TAA petitions and certifications. Our staff is excited about having more opportunity to serve dislocated workers with the TAA services and resources as we know that the outcomes for TAA participants are truly remarkable and life-changing. I look forward to taking advantage of additional collaboration with the VA Navigators and know that they will continue to be strong mentors to support my continued learning.