Skilled worker in Winslow, Maine. The Democratic jobs plans would work with companies to train workers. Photo by Ramona du Houx
By Ramona du Houx
House Speaker Mark Eves and area lawmakers announced key initiatives they said would help grow Maine’s middle class by partnering with businesses to spur good jobs and strong wages for workers throughout the state.
During the first stop on a statewide jobs tour, Eves proposed a statewide investment of $5 million over five years to create at least 10 public-private partnerships to support job training in high-demand fields. The measure would also fund scholarships for workers and students to gain the skills they need to fill jobs in growing sectors, including high skilled manufacturing, information technology, and healthcare. “If we want good jobs and strong wages, we must bring our workers and businesses together to prepare for the jobs of the future. Maine’s comeback story depends on it,” said Eves. “By investing in training for workers and students in every region of the state, we are putting a down payment on growing the middle class.”
Eves announced the funding initiative at Pratt & Whitney, where a public-private partnership with the state, other local businesses and York County Community College will help fill 1,200 new jobs with Maine workers and students. The state invested $330,000 to create a precision machinist training program at the community college for workers and students to get the training needed for the high skilled jobs.
“We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how to attract business to our state—and we should. But we can’t ignore the needs of the businesses and workers who are here right now,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond, who sponsored a bipartisan funding measure during the 126th Legislature to jump start job training and workforce development and spearheaded Legislature’s special panel on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. “We know we can address these needs by using the existing public-private infrastructure to train workers and fill these jobs.”
Lisa Martin from the Manufacturers Association of Maine applauded the statewide investment. “We are challenged with numerous training programs all over the state with no direct coordinated effort," said Martin. "What we need are full classes and training labs filled with current and future workers.”
Martin said the model would grow good jobs across industries.
“We know that 90 textile companies in Maine are expecting to create approximately 500 jobs in Maine within the next three years, and they need the workers to be trained in this kind of manufacturing,” said Martin.
Maine’s economy lags behind the nation, with a significant jobs gap and stagnating wages. Maine’s wages are 20 percent lower, on average, than wages across the U.S. -- even those states with similar demographics like Vermont and New Hampshire have higher average wages.
Eves said the jobs tour would highlight the success of public-private partnerships in each region of the state and also identify key areas of investment. The next stop on the tour will be next month in Aroostook County.