Thursday, December 12, 2013
By RONALD N. DUPUIS JR. and LISA G. MARTIN
Maine needs a strategy that provides a road map for a cost-effective, collaborative and data-driven system that will address education and training needs for Maine industry.
A random sampling in December of manufacturers in Maine showed that more than 230 good-paying jobs were unfilled due to lack of skilled labor.
2006 File Photo/Press Herald
The Manufacturers Association of Maine has provided a strategy proposal to Gov. Paul LePage that provides guidelines for policy development and resources for an industry partnership and sector strategy so that all manufacturing sectors network as one industry voice. Maine's Industry Partnership/Sector Strategy is applicable to all industries in Maine.
Traditionally, Maine has focused on workers without jobs, who represented approximately 7 percent of the population. A majority of state and federal funds were used to support this population of displaced workers through unemployment services. The focus shifted away from the remaining 93 percent of the incumbent work force.
Although the unemployed should receive relief at some level, industry partnerships would focus on the incumbent work force priorities, which include pipeline and career ladder development. This is important to retain skilled workers, increase the available labor pool, and address skill gaps that arise due to emerging technologies and business opportunities.
This would provide Maine companies the ability to stay ahead of the curve and collaborate with other industry sectors in the use of best practices to address industries' most fundamental and skill development needs.
Collaboration among the Maine industry partnerships, work force development and education systems are endless but must be viewed as a long-term relationship.
Maine's Industry Partnership/Sector Strategy that has been developed provides the structure to identify and act quickly on common interests across a large and varied set of stakeholders. This strategy is built on the very successful model employed in Pennsylvania.
Today in Maine, two industry sectors are moving in parallel to establish and implement the Maine industry partnership model. The health care and manufacturing sectors are using this innovative approach to foster critical partnerships. This model can be replicated in all industries and can be applied in a strategic and deliberate manner to support Maine businesses and industry.
As Maine continues to forge ahead to strengthen its economy, businesses will need skilled and educated workers to fill jobs. Maine's manufacturing sector is positioned to address both a short- and long-term fix.
Building long-term relationships is the answer for Maine's manufacturing industry. Part of that picture is real training that leads to jobs.
Industry partnerships are critical to the competitiveness and productivity of Maine's work force because they account for the needs of employers, educational providers and workers.
There are two key themes regarding the concerns around the quantity and quality of workers interested in manufacturing employment in Maine.
The first theme relates to the insufficient pipeline of skilled manufacturing technicians to replace incumbent workers who will soon retire. The second theme is that manufacturing workers are often unprepared to adapt to an increasingly changing manufacturing environment.
The industry partnerships will focus on workers' desire to develop in their own careers; displaced and unemployed workers who are so important to support during tough economic times; and businesses that want to remain competitive and survive.
Many companies today are finding it hard to fill open positions, not because of the unavailability of workers but because of the unavailability of skilled workers for the positions they have.
At the Manufacturers Association of Maine, a random sampling of 40 of our association members in December showed more than 230 good-paying jobs unfilled. Our members were concerned because they knew the effort to fill these jobs would be difficult. Maine's shortage of a skilled work force in manufacturing is hurting the state's economy.
Examples of key manufacturing occupations are manufacturing engineers, CNC (computer numerically controlled) machinists, fabricators, machine assemblers, welders, planners/buyers, industrial maintenance technicians and precision machinists, to name just a few.
These are the reasons work force development, the education system and industry must work together to meet the needs of businesses and workers in the Maine, and Maine's Industry Partnership/Sector Strategy will support those needs in the future.
Ronald N. Dupuis Jr. is vice chairman of the board of the Manufacturers Association of Maine. Lisa G. Martin is the association's executive director.