AUGUSTA – Parents, teachers and guidance counselors must understand that not everyone needs a four-year college degree to get a good-paying job in Maine, Gov. Paul LePage said Friday.

After meeting with nearly two dozen business owners at the Blaine House, LePage talked about the 24,000 Mainers who are receiving unemployment benefits while there are 21,000 job openings.

“It’s matching the skills to the job,” he said. “Quite frankly, one of the most disturbing things I heard today is our educational system is geared to send all students to a four-year college.”

LePage invited the business executives to Friday’s summit to discuss the problems they have when they look for workers. One of those executives, Alan Dorval, chief executive officer of Mid-State Machine Products in Winslow, said his company has turned away work because it cannot find enough skilled workers.

He said his company has 10 openings and needs workers with two-year degrees and a focus in machine tool trades.

“Sadly, we’re not educating the folks to fill the jobs in Maine,” he said. “The technical trades have tremendous job openings, tremendous earnings potential and tremendous job security.”

The governor said he will continue to push his idea of offering a fifth year of high school to allow students to take college-level courses. But he said Maine has a problem that needs a long-term solution.

“One area where we’re really flat on our face and we need to get working is in the trades,” he said. “The paper industry, the machine shops, they are all asking for engineers, draftsmen, machine workers.”

He said it was a mistake for the state to turn its technical colleges into community colleges in 2003, and said he will work to ensure that the community colleges are “better aligned with the business community.”

Robert Schwartz, dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, presented a report on preparing young Americans for the 21st century.

“We have half the young people who are not equipped with either the skills or the credentials,” he said. “That’s not just a Maine problem, that’s a national problem,” Schwartz said.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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