In today’s economy, Maine’s business leaders are struggling to succeed.

“Students who receive mentoring earn higher incomes in the long run (as much as $5,337 more per year, by one estimate),” Yarmouth educator David Pearl writes. kan_chana/

Hiring and retention are top concerns, as staffing shortages undermine business expansion across industries. Knowing that they can go only as far as their employees take them, Maine employers are increasingly looking to the state government for support.

All options must be on the table. Workforce development has never been more important, and it’s never too early to start. It is imperative for high school students to get a head start on career development, preparing themselves for the labor market well in advance and positioning themselves favorably for job creators in need.

One underutilized option is mentorship. Utilizing Maine’s business leaders as student mentors makes for an impactful, positive experience – personally and professionally. But many high schoolers are never connected with mentors: Only about 10 percent of students receive mentoring through their high schools. Yet those who do earn higher grades and attain more schooling in the end. Moreover, students who receive mentoring also earn higher incomes in the long run (as much as $5,337 more per year, by one estimate).

I’ve witnessed the power of mentorship firsthand. Each year, I partner with Junior Achievement of Maine, an organization bridging the gap between the education and business communities to prepare students for successful futures. Junior Achievement’s learning experiences – delivered by community members – help students gain skills in money management, entrepreneurship and career readiness. These are all valuable life skills that I teach my students every day as an educator at Yarmouth High School.

One of the most impactful mentoring events in our curriculum is the Titan Challenge, which provides real-world opportunities outside the classroom. Access to Maine’s business leaders makes the Titan Challenge an exciting change of pace from school, with competition raising the stakes and driving high participation.


As part of the Titan Challenge, students compete as business CEOs in the telephone industry. They experience how an organization evaluates alternatives, makes decisions, analyzes the outcomes of those decisions and then strategizes what to do next. The students work in teams to guide their virtual smartphone company through the ups and downs of the market. Creativity, finance, collaboration, strategy and leadership are common themes that distinguish success from failure.

All of Maine’s high schools can participate in the Titan Challenge, which takes place at various Maine businesses during the school day. Students thereby take advantage of another resource in Maine: Business mentors who bring a “can-do” mindset to our students. Working with educators, employers can explain which skills are most highly coveted in the hiring process and how employees can leverage those skills to climb the career ladder. They can also offer specifics on earning potential and possible barriers to career development – and how to avoid them.

The pay-off for students is priceless. Several of my Titan Challenge veterans have ended up studying business or economics in college, increasing their earning potential. This year, three of my seniors took the extra initiative and created a Finance Club for those who have a natural interest in the field.

When hiring and retention are such major issues for employers, human capital becomes the most valuable commodity in the labor market. People are everything. They allow businesses to seek and secure growth opportunities, and those businesses in turn reward the people who made that growth possible. Over time, business expansion leads to further job creation in the short term and economic growth in the long run.

But it all starts with training the next generation of Maine workers. For our state economy to overcome today’s challenges and reach greater heights, mentorship at a young age is key. Junior achievement is the name of the economic game.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.