If Maine is going to meet Gov. Janet Mill’s ambitious carbon emissions goal, it will need to multiply its effort to seal up and insulate its stock of drafty old houses.

Cody Moreau, a worker from Horizon Homes, uses a hose to blow fill bays encased in a membrane with insulation in an attic in South Portland. Weatherizing homes will be necessary to reach Gov. Janet Mills ambitious climate change goals, but the industry is dealing with a tight labor market and the expense of some home projects. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

But that’s not going to happen unless someone multiplies the workforce needed to do those jobs. According to a Maine Sunday Telegram story by reporter Tux Turkel, the contractors who provide weatherization services can barely find the staff they need now, and they don’t know where they would find the workers they would need to double or triple their effort.

The same is true in health care, where Maine’s aging population is demanding more care from a workforce that does not yet exist. From home health and nursing home aides to doctors and nurses, labor shortages are here and only projected to get worse. It’s also true for public safety as police and firefighter jobs go unfilled, and its true in the private sector, where a wide variety of skilled workers are heading toward retirement with no one in line to take their places.

Maine’s forest product industry is on the brink of a rebirth, potentially breathing life into hard-hit communities, with new markets emerging for products besides paper that are made out of wood. But that won’t happen unless the mills can hire the welders and pipe-fitters needed to do the work. Maine’s unemployment rate is at near historic lows, and while low unemployment is less of a problem than high unemployment, it is still a problem. If Maine does not take steps to build it’s workforce, it will drift into economic decline.

Employers and state officials take this worker shortage seriously, and there are a number of efforts underway to address the shortage. There are two basic approaches. One is doing more with the people we’ve got. That means hiring older workers, people with disabilities and reaching out to young and disaffected Mainers who are unemployed or underemployed despite the strong economy.

The other approach is bringing more people into the state. That will take investing in out-of-state recruitment, as well as opening the door to immigration, in some cases providing newcomers with assistance they need to get on their feet.

Meeting Maine’s workforce challenge is not going to be easy. It won’t be fixed by the government or a few large employers. It’s going to take a business by business, community by community effort  fueled by a willingness to try new things.

But unless we are willing to try, we won’t be able to meet our goals.

 

 

 

 


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