Jobs in manufacturing, construction, transportation, energy, and tourism are foundational to the Maine economy. They make and do things, create wealth, and pay the fees and taxes to support the service and public sectors. Those jobs start with investment and require trained workers suited to the jobs available.
Jobs in the 21st Century increasingly require intelligence, creativity, and particular skills. Unfortunately, Maine’s best and brightest are leaving the state at a very high rate, we’re not training people to the new economy, and we’re not attracting skilled workers “from away.”
Not all students are destined for four-year colleges yet that has been the focus of most K-12 education. The recent movement to get 60% of the adult population credentialed in the next several years is a step in the right direction and recognition of the need for change, but there is more to be done.
Maine needs an overall strategic plan for the attraction of foundational jobs that can inform the educational system about future employment opportunities and needed skills. Public schools K-12, the community colleges, the UMaine system, and intern and apprenticeship programs need to be integrated and coordinated with the new economy and identified needed skills. Given the rapid pace of change, education must become individualized, and for many, lifelong.
Maine has a great opportunity to provide leadership in educational reform and effectiveness. It starts with a plan.