While it is encouraging that the majority of our elementary school students are proficient in reading and math, we still have more work to do to ensure all our students are ready for college and career.

We need to improve our education system in order to provide Maine’s businesses with a highly skilled workforce for the future (“Maine students show decline in math, reading, writing,” March 25).

As a businessperson, I know our students need to be better prepared. Why? According to a 2013 report from the business leaders group America’s Edge, if current education and workforce trends don’t change, Maine will face a shortage of 15,000 highly skilled workers.

Future jobs in Maine will increasingly require post-secondary education and training. The demand is even more pronounced in the science, technology, engineering and math fields – 87 percent of these jobs will require post-secondary education by 2018.

This is not good news when only about 50 percent of our high schoolers are proficient in reading and math. We need our students to be prepared for future jobs in Maine so that our employees and businesses can continue to compete in today’s global economy.

Continued implementation of the Maine Learning Results standards and development of a higher quality assessment system aligned to the standards will help students develop the core academic knowledge and soft skills of critical thinking, collaboration and communication necessary for Maine businesses to innovate and grow.

However, raising the bar for our students is not enough. We need effective teachers, greater accountability in the education system, engaged parents and innovative high school approaches that provide students with real-world learning opportunities.

Let us stay the course. Maine businesses and our economy depend on it.

Fred Webber

chair, State Workforce Investment Board

Standish