I was pleased to read that Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves intend to make addressing Maine’s skills gap a high priority in the next legislative session. As a business leader, it is heartening to hear that they and Gov. LePage agree on the need to address this major challenge.
Maine businesses are already facing a “gap” between the skills employees arrive knowing and the expertise needed in many jobs. We know this problem will only increase in the future, as experts are predicting that by 2018, 90 percent of new jobs in Maine will require some type of formal education beyond high school. At the same time, a Maine analysis projects 26,000 new high-wage jobs and growth jobs over the next 10 years, but forecasts that 4,000 of these high-wage jobs will go unfilled due to the lack of proper skills.
These are stark predictions for our future and I am pleased that Maine’s political leaders are willing to address them head on now, before the gap widens. Part of the solution should include innovative education that brings “career relevance” into high school and college classrooms.
There are several successful models for integrating rigorous academic curriculum with career themes, which results in both equipping students with important skills for specific occupations, as well as teaching them to be good communicators, collaborators and critical thinkers.
By focusing on these key educational goals, Maine policy makers will take great strides equipping Maine students with the career ready skills Maine businesses need.
Godfrey Wood of Famouth is president of the Greater Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce.