House Speaker Mark Eves will present his “Put ME to Work” bill to grow good jobs and strong wages in Maine during a public hearing on Monday, May 18, at 9:30 a.m. in the Legislature’s Commerce Research and Economic Development Committee.
The bill, LD 1373, “An Act to Create the Put ME to Work Program,” would invest $5 million over five years to provide job training in high-demand fields through public-private partnerships with businesses across the state.
“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 of North Berwick. “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.”
The measure would also fund scholarships for workers and students to gain the skills they need to fill jobs in growing sectors, including logging, forest products, machining, construction and trades, healthcare and agriculture.
Eves’ proposal comes as Maine ranks 49th in the nation for jobs recovered since the Great Recession. According to an analysis released by Pew Charitable Trusts, Maine has seen a meager recovery — second only to West Virginia. Since August of 2010, Maine saw modest growth in employment — 2.66 percent since the lowest point of the recession. Wages in Maine also lag ranking 20 percent lower, on average, than wages across the United States.
“We’ve heard from employers and workers across the state about the best way to improve our economy. The message is the same from North Berwick to Frenchville: invest in our workers and businesses,” said Speaker Eves. “A skilled and well-trained workforce is key to success for both workers and businesses in our state.”
Eves launched a statewide jobs tour in January to spotlight the need for more jobs and better wages in the state. Since January, a group of bipartisan lawmakers have met with employers, workers, and community leaders across the state in York, Aroostook, Kennebec, and Somerset counties.
In January, Eves announced the job training initiative at Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick, 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.
LD 1373 has support from members of both parties and is co-sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden.
Workers, businesses, industry and education leaders are expected to attend the hearing to urge support for the measure.