Educate Maine, a business-led education organization, supports both Questions 4 and 5 on the November ballot. We see these historic bonds for the University of Maine System (Question 4) and the Maine Community College System (Question 5) as much needed investment in our workforce and our economy. We need more people in the workforce and they need the skills in demand by Maine employers. A high school diploma is no longer enough. Maine people need something additional that connects them to a career and to financial security. This can be a skilled trade certificate, a professional license, and increasingly a four-year college degree. The Maine economy has thousands of open jobs – and will have many more in the future – that require all of these credentials.
A recent survey of over 1,000 Maine employers (Making Maine Work 2018) asked for the top issues facing Maine’s next governor. Of the top five issues, three are related to workforce: availability of professional, skilled technical and entry-level workers (in that order). To address this need, Maine has set a goal that by 2025, 60 percent of adults will have a credential of value – training and education beyond high school that connects them to a job in the economy. Currently, just 44 percent of the workforce is there which means we have much work to do.
Thinking about how that gets done, there is no scenario where our public higher education institutions don’t play the leading role in moving Maine toward the 60 by 2025 goal. Questions 4 and 5 invests in them doing so, increasing their ability to recruit and support more students from Maine and beyond to attend modernized facilities that prepare graduates for high-demand Maine jobs in nursing, engineering, computer science, and technical trades to name just a few.
Maine businesses expect and need our public universities and colleges to lead the state’s workforce development efforts. Higher education has embraced this challenge and is working closely with businesses and each other to provide solutions. Everything is in place for us to succeed. Now is the time for this critical investment if we want to achieve our vision of a strong and competitive Maine economy.
Ed Cervone is executive director of Educate Maine