We’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the workforce shortages that stretch across Maine and a good number of its industries.

It’s nice to have some good news for a change.

The shortfall in nurses projected for the state for 2025 has been cut in half since 2017, according to a report released last week. It shows that Maine is not helpless against the demographic tide that is a factor in nearly all of our state’s labor shortages.

Nursing was no exception. The rise in the number of older Mainers, who require more health care, is taking place at the same time as nurses themselves are aging and leaving the workforce, compounding the problem.

With health care so important to Maine lives and its economy, that’s a significant problem even when considered alongside other workforce shortages. As a result, the problem has gotten a lot of attention, including from Gov. Janet Mills, whose workforce plan included initiatives specifically for the health care industry.

The efforts are paying off. Nursing programs across the state are full, many of them at record-high levels.


A bill before the Legislature would help even more by providing money for community colleges to expand capacity, which in turn help hospitals provide better, and lower-cost, care.

There are plenty of people waiting to fill the slots. Even two years into a pandemic marked by stress and strain on nurses, people are clamoring to enter the profession.

Mainers are being drawn to the field by the prospect of working hard to help people in need, often spurred by their own experiences in health care, when nurses they came into contact with showed them how fulfilling it could be.

Not every profession has that sense of mission. But that doesn’t mean their workforce shortages can’t be overcome.

State policy can raise awareness of openings and opportunities in other aspects of health care and the trades, and it can open pathways through funding for scholarships and grants.

It can also make sure that employees are paid a livable wage, and that they receive paid leave, predictable schedules, and access to affordable care for anyone in their family who may need it. Lack of all these things is keeping people, particularly women, from working.


Maine also needs more affordable housing, the lack of which is making it difficult for areas all over the state to attract workers. If they can’t afford to live there, how can they work there?

Maine must also continue to make itself an attractive place to live for people from away. That includes immigrants and refugees, who have played an important part in Maine’s recent growth, but also people from other states.

A lot of those folks moved to Maine during the pandemic. They didn’t come here because of low taxes or a lack of government regulation. They came here because of the quality of life the state offers; its safety, clean environment and strong communities.

They came because they saw Maine as a great place to live and raise their families.

As lawmakers continue to address the workforce shortage, and to spend the state’s budget surplus, they should remember what is special about Maine, and consider what can make that stronger.

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