By Katy Savage
PITTSFIELD—As Vermont’s youth flee, the Roger Clark Memorial Library has a new program to get Pittsfield children interested in the area’s businesses.
About 30 students are participating in the All About Pittsfield program. Children take passports to different
business owners and ask survey questions such as, “What did you want to be when you grew up?” and “What is your favorite book from childhood?” They also ask what the business does and what education is required.
Children have to take a business card, stamp or sticker from the owner to prove they were there. Children get extra points if they know how long the business has been open.
“We have a very serious problem in this country and in all small towns in Vermont where we’re going to have labor shortages. I think exposing our youths to the type of businesses that operate can do nothing but help set up a pool of workers,” said Select Board chair Ann Kuendig.
Kuendig’s 3-year-old granddaughter, who has already declared she wants to be an astronaut, plans to participate in the program.
“I see this program doing a lot more than introducing our youngsters to business people,” Keundig said. “I see it as a means of helping our youth figure out what they want to do and exposing them to a business at a very early age.”
All About Pittsfield has been a year in the making.
The program requires children to speak face-to-face with business owners, something Hurd fears is being lost as youth become more attuned to electronic devices.
“It’s a chance to be unplugged,” said Erica Hurd, one of the organizers. “They’re more plugged in than ever before and they’re really stressed out because they aren’t really living life, they’re living an artificial life,” Hurd explained. “That’s a sad trend to see.”
“I was 9 when I announced to my family I was going to be a hairdresser or veterinarian,” she said. Now, Hurd owns a hair salon in Killington.
Hurd’s 9-year-old daughter has said she either wants to be an architect or wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
“My daughter has already started to interview me,” said Hurd. “This could give kids a sense of direction. The business owners could become mentors.”
Twelve businesses in Pittsfield, from restaurants to architects and hair salons, are participating in All About Pittsfield, including Casa Bella Inn & Restaurant, Clear River Tavern, Deb’s Country Coiffures and Colton Enterprises, Inc.
“Anytime you can get youngsters, no matter how young they are, interested in multiple businesses, I think that’s a great plan,” said Colton Enterprises owner Dan Colton. Colton, who graduated from the University of Vermont, started his own kiln-dried firewood business in 1983.
Some of the organizers were surprised how many entrepreneurs there were in town.
“We have so many people in Pittsfield that have done something and made a business, a lot of people don’t know about it,” said Coral Hawley, another organizer, whose children, ages 3 and 5, are participating in the program.
Children have until Aug. 26 to fill out the survey in the passport. They will receive a prize at the Pittsfield Picnic on that date.