Your article on skilled labor shortages (“Skilled-worker shortage crimps new construction in Maine,” May 18) was a spot-on overview of a problem that has the potential to plague Maine for years if we don’t take action to stop it.

As you reported, we simply don’t have enough skilled workers to fill demand, and skilled workers often wind up leaving for other states where demand is also high. Worse, our “skills gap” is only going to grow.

As a businessperson who spent many years in the construction industry, as a former educator and as a Mainer, I am greatly concerned by this problem. How bad is it? The business-leader group ReadyNation estimates that our state will have a shortfall of 15,000 highly skilled workers by the end of this decade if present trends don’t change.

And this shortfall is by no means limited to construction. Many sectors, especially science, technology, engineering and math jobs, are experiencing a skills gap problem.

Thankfully, we have powerful tools to help reverse those trends.

One solution is to continue to commit to proficiency-based learning. This approach emphasizes assessments of student progress, specific academic standards and a curriculum based on core subjects to help ensure that our state’s students are college-ready and career-ready.

Another solution is to incorporate “deeper learning” into today’s schools – connecting high schools to higher education and workplaces, as well as using project-based learning and career and technical training. Deeper learning also builds executive-functioning skills. These skills – such as the ability to collaborate in teams, think critically and communicate effectively – drive the productivity of Maine’s largest employers.

Maine’s workforce must be strong enough to fill demand for skilled positions. Continuing to support proficiency-based learning and expanding deeper learning programs will help close our skills gap and ensure our long-term economic health.

Steven M. Pound, Ph.D.

retired business leader and former chair, Maine State Board of Education