Despite signs of a strong economy, Maine is still facing serious workforce and demographic challenges.

Making a smart investment in short-term job training is one way to unleash the abilities and opportunities for Mainers who are looking to enter the workforce or improve their skills.

That’s why I urge Maine lawmakers, and ultimately, voters to support the bond package proposed by Gov. Mills, which seeks to spur economic development with investments not only in workforce development, but in expanding access to broadband and child care facilities – common barriers for people looking to improve their job skills.

The demand for training workers is there: We see it every day at the Maine Community College System.

The Maine Quality Center program alone, which includes training for operating heavy equipment, welding, truck driving, small-engine repair and pipefitting, is up more than 40 percent from last year, to more than 900 trainees.

Yet there are still good-paying jobs going unfilled in Maine because there are simply not enough people with the right skills to fill them. At the same time, an increasing number of Maine’s aging workers are retiring, compounding the workforce shortage.

This bond package represents an integrated investment that supports educational attainment and increases the number of jobs and skilled workers in Maine.

It starts with access to job training. These bonds would remove common barriers – by expanding access to broadband and child care – and boost the number and reach of job training programs available to those people, no matter where they are located in the state.

Our students come from all walks of life. We’re retraining older workers for a second career, training new Mainers so they can join the workforce and providing educational opportunity and a second chance to those in the recovery and corrections communities.

Last year, we served 25,000 people through our degree programs, customized training and noncredit offerings. We offered those students more than 100 areas of study, 75 percent of which are the only ones of their kind in the state. The graduates of those programs are highly trained nurses, firefighters, precision machinists, IT professionals, accountants, plumbers, chefs and more.

If passed by the Legislature and the voters, this bond would support education and training for tradespeople. The money would be invested in a multi-trade, flexible workforce training center and two mobile welding trailers that will increase welder training capacity by 200 percent statewide.

The mobile welding trailers serves two key functions: One, we can reach students in remote parts of the state who can’t relocate or travel to our fixed classrooms and, two, we can respond to local workforce needs swiftly, supporting local businesses and providing training directly tied to local workforce needs.

These are targeted funds that will allow Mainers to earn a decent paycheck, lift their families out of poverty, be a part of local industry and help build a robust economy in the state.

I urge you to support the bond proposals so we can expand training and help provide the skilled workforce that drives Maine’s economy.

 


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