AUGUSTA — A lack of good-paying jobs is holding back Maine’s economy. Statistics reveal that 100,000 Maine workers are either unemployed, working only part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs, or have given up the search for a job in despair. Still, businesses cannot find enough employees with modern job skills. And our public educational facilities are too old and crowded to teach high-demand coursework.

Voters can do something about this Nov. 5 by approving five bonds that will create jobs, make our youth job-ready, enable those already in the workforce to improve their skills and upgrade Maine workers’ livelihoods.

Maine needs the jobs that these bonds will produce.

Analysis by the Maine Center for Economic Policy shows that five bonds totaling $149.5 million and attracting another $177 million in matching federal funds will support approximately 4,400 jobs and generate an additional $570 million of local spending, adding fuel to Maine’s economy.

Maine lost 30,000 jobs in the recession and has recovered only one-third of them. We lag behind other New England states in job recovery. Massachusetts has recovered 81 percent and Vermont more than half of their lost jobs.

These bonds will create almost half again as many jobs as we have recovered since the end of the recession and alone will put back to work nearly as many people as are employed at Bath Iron Works. They will employ road construction crews, architects and engineers, building tradespeople and general laborers in significant numbers.

In addition, the bonds will spur the economy by putting more money back into our local communities. Newly employed or re-employed workers will spend their pay on household goods, make car repairs or take their families out to dinner, benefiting local businesses.

Maine needs to prepare our young people for the new economy.

Within five years, 59 percent of all Maine jobs (396,000 jobs) will require some training beyond high school. Many will require science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) backgrounds. Over the next decade, one in seven jobs will require STEM education.

Unless Maine invests in educational facilities to teach critical skills, Maine businesses will be unable to recruit employees with the skills necessary to do the job.

Without STEM education, Maine’s economy will suffer further.

Highly skilled, qualified workers will attract businesses to Maine bringing jobs and investment with them. Maine’s economy and our middle class families will prosper.

Questions 2, 4 and 5 fund improvements at the University of Maine campuses, Maine community colleges and Maine Maritime Academy to teach these higher-paying, in-demand, STEM-related fields. They will provide nursing, science and computer laboratories, expanded classrooms and new instruction space for hands-on programs like precision manufacturing, heavy-equipment operation and culinary arts.

These bonds will help equip Maine students with the knowledge to meet today’s job needs and prepare them for tomorrow’s opportunities.

Maine workers need to upgrade skills to get higher-paying jobs.

Many Mainers struggle to get by in low-skilled, low-paying jobs. More than 30 percent of Maine families are working but still live in poverty.

In many families, both parents work two or more minimum-wage jobs to afford groceries, a roof over their heads and other basic necessities for themselves and their children. They have little opportunity for advancement. This is, in part, because they lack the education required for higher-paying jobs.

Just 28.4 percent of Mainers have a four-year college degree or higher. Only another 9 percent have an associate degree. More than a quarter of a million Mainers started college, but never finished.

These bonds will increase the capacity of our college and university systems to offer a quality education to our high school graduates and working adults who want to go back to school, finish their degrees or learn new skills. They will open the door to a better future for thousands of Maine working families.

On Nov. 5, Maine voters can make investments that will not only create 4,400 jobs and jumpstart our economy, but also prepare our youth and working adults to compete for better jobs today and in the future.

Vote “yes” on the five bond proposals. Maine’s future economic growth depends on it.

— Special to the Press Herald

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