Maine’s changing worker needs to be focus of UMS summit

Posted March 31, 2010, at 10:39 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — It wasn’t so long ago that high school graduates in some towns could be assured of a job at the local mill or factory.

These days, some of those jobs are still there — but in a vastly different form.

“There will be jobs at the mill, but they will be [jobs with] high technical content and high knowledge content,” University of Maine System Chancellor Richard L. Pattenaude said earlier this week. “This I think is indicative of so much of what the economy’s about in the future. It’s a knowledge-based economy.”

If the economy and the work force are changing, then the university also must change, Pattenaude said, which is the purpose behind a statewide summit planned next week at the University of Maine campus in Orono.

The daylong “Advancing Maine: Aligning UMS Academic Programs to Meet Future Workforce Needs” will be held Tuesday at the Wells Conference Center.

The event will open for registration starting at 8:30 a.m. The morning session will be devoted to speakers Doug Hall, CEO of Eureka! Ranch and a guest lecturer at UM’s Foster Center for Student Innovation; Laurie LaChance, CEO of the Maine Development Foundation; and John Dorrer, director of the Center for Workforce Research and Information at the state Department of Labor.

Gov. John Baldacci will give welcoming remarks and “frame the conversation,” Pattenaude said.

The afternoon session will include table discussions about implementing ideas offered by the morning speakers. Speakers affiliated with the University of Maine System also will provide updates of initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering, math, nursing, tourism, innovation and world languages.

The summit falls two days before UM Provost Susan Hunter will forward a report about the university’s academic priorities — an interim version of which included eliminating four language majors — to UM President Robert Kennedy.

“The importance is to provide instruction and access to languages, but not necessarily baccalaureate degrees on all the campuses,” Pattenaude said. “That group [which will present at the summit] is working on how the best way to go about that.”

Around 200 people have registered so far for the summit. Several groups also will watching on interactive video set up at 13 locations throughout the state, including one at the Cross State Office Building in Augusta.

Pattenaude said the audience will include officials from Bath Iron Works, Unum insurance, Maine Chambers of Commerce, city managers and work force development organizations

“The purpose is to bring together in one place people from the university, people from the Department of Labor and people from business and community groups, to have a conversation,” he said. “From that, it will help us prioritize new program development or program investment over the next few years. We want to make the right decisions.”

The system’s other goal for the summit is to have conversations about creating a public agenda for higher education, which was spelled out in the “New Challenges, New Directions” report commissioned by Pattenaude last year. The report addressed ways to enroll and graduate more students.

“I think the people of Maine already understand the importance of education in terms of jobs,” Pattenaude said. “We continue to work on that to make sure that everybody comes to college interested in success.”

For information or to register, go to www.maine.edu/system/AdvancingMaine.php.

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e summit will be streamed over the Internet at videoconference sites in the following locations:

University of Maine at Augusta: Katz Library, Room 5

University of Maine at Farmington: Merrill Hall, Room 103

University of Maine at Fort Kent: Nadeau Hall, Room 114-B

University of Maine at Machias: Torrey Hall, Room 103

University of Maine at Presque Isle: Library Conference Room

University of Southern Maine, Gorham: Upperclass Hall, Room 106

University of Southern Maine, Portland: Law Building, Room 703

Cross State Office Building, Augusta, Room 103

Other University of Maine System locations:

Ellsworth Center: Room 2*

South Paris Center: Room 209*

Rumford Center: Room 8*

Rockland Center: Room 412*

Houlton Center: Room 125

*Rooms will be disconnected from the session at 3:45 p.m. due to class schedules

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