Kuster touches on workforce development in Claremont
CLAREMONT — Rep. Anne Kuster spent Monday in Claremont, checking in with health care providers at Valley Regional Hospital, information technology workers at Red River and social and medical workers at West Central Behavioral Health’s Substance Use Services facility.
Kuster toured the three facilities as part of her hospital and healthcare listening tour, which began in February. A member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Kuster talked about ways to lower costs and increase access to healthcare.
At Red River Technology in Claremont, she spoke with senior Red River staff and the Claremont Makerspace about best practices and initiatives in workforce development.
“Do you have anything for helping employees pay off student loans? It's a real draw for recruitment,” said Kuster. She was speaking with Kim Vacca, director of Red River Charitable Foundation.
Jon Nicholas replied, “We are doing it now.” Red River has scholarships and loan reimbursement programs for its employees.
The IT company perched on the bank of the Sugar River in a former mill building has offices across the country, from Sacramento to Austin to West Virgina. Red River was founded in Hanover over 20 years ago.
Kuster wanted to talk about workforce development. “Where are your new people coming from? Are you finding the people you need?”
“We need to do a better job marketing,” said Nicholas. “We need to let people know you can start your career here; you don't have to have five years' experience.”
Red River runs a sales course at Keene State College, which Kuster applauded.
“I did a workforce roundtable in Keene,” she said. “The companies are not doing outreach on campus; they shrug their shoulders like they're used to that whole class graduating and leaving. But why did these students choose New Hampshire? They like it here; they like the lifestyle. You'd do better to focus on recruiting people who are already here.”
The Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), which focuses on economic development of the region along the Canadian border, has grants to offer for economic development in rural communities.
Josh Bushueff of the Claremont Makerspace said NBRC helped the makerspace get going. Another source of grant funding for economic development is the United States Department of Agriculture. Kuster offered to help Red River find grant funding through these two entities.
Kuster said that transferring tech skills acquired during military service to civilian jobs can be quite difficult for veterans, given that many companies don’t know how to measure what those tech skills are. Military systems have their own classifications and requirements.
“I think it would go a long way if you would help to figure it out,” said Kuster.
The Claremont Makerspace, with Red River Charitable Foundation, is offering a Veterans Scholarship Program. Qualifying veterans and active service members can receive a 75 percent discount on Makerspace membership and programming fees. To apply, go to claremontmakerspace.org/special-programs
Red River Charitable Foundation also offers a $5,000 scholarship for area students pursuing computer science or other information technology studies. The deadline to apply for that scholarship is April 30: contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.