The BDN’s Feb. 6 editorial “Job Training Critical Conduit,” praising a proposal by Gov. Paul LePage to drastically revamp the state’s job training programs was short on facts.
It is correct in saying, “publicly funded job training should get the same attention that higher education gets,” and that “it has the potential to sustain an important tier of the economy and provide a ladder out of low-wage jobs.”
What the editorial doesn’t do, and what the governor hasn’t done, is make the case that Maine’s current system of providing job training for displaced and economically disadvantaged workers isn’t working. Frankly, it is working.
In order to implement the governor’s drastic changes, the federal government will have to grant the state a waiver of federal law, similar to the Department of Health and Human Services waiver, which is also unlikely to be granted. There was also little involvement of the state’s Chamber groups which are being asked to play a key role, something they are wholly unprepared to do.
Of even more concern, the governor’s proposal was drafted and put forward without discussion with the Workforce Boards who are most affected. The governor claims that the Workforce Boards spend only 20 percent of their funds for job training with the rest going for administration and overhead. This is false.
To make his claim that 80 percent of the job training funds are going to overhead, the governor fails to include the funds for training services that are mandated by law and go to such things as remedial education, resume writing and job search assistance.
Federal law limits the Workforce Boards to spending only 10 percent of their funds on administrative costs. According to the latest government audits for all contracts approved by the Maine Department of Labor, all of the Workforce Boards are in compliance with this requirement.
The governor fails to mention that each year before the Workforce Boards even receive their dollars from the federal government, the state withholds up to 25 percent of allocated funds for its own administration and overhead costs. If the governor believes more money should be going directly to job training, the Workforce Boards would gladly distribute these funds for additional work force training.
For nearly 12 years, the Workforce Boards have been successful in supplementing their federal allocations with grants and other leveraged funds not included as part of the administration’s accounting. These additional job-training funds would be in jeopardy if the administration obliterates the capacity to obtain these funds.
Finally, the governor claims the success rate for placing participants in jobs is low, 44 percent over the last two years. His analysis is wrong. The truth is that Maine’s Workforce Boards have achieved 75 to 80 percent success rate in placing participants.
Even in a slow economy, Maine’s Workforce Boards are in the top 10 percent nationally in several areas of performance, and each board has received federal incentive award funds for performance that is spent on additional work force training and service projects.
At a time when our economy is still lagging from the recent recession and so many Maine citizens need assistance, it is not the time to scrap a job training strategy that’s working well and instead roll the dice on a new and untested plan.
Ted St. Amand is president of Atlantic Pest Solutions in Arundel. He is former chairman of the Coastal Counties Workforce Board and a member of the Southern Midcoast Chamber of Commerce.