AUGUSTA, Maine — The Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future, which Democratic legislative leaders created this session to address the “skills gap” that inhibits Maine employers’ efforts to recruit properly trained workers, will make public its work to date on Monday.
Democrats identified closing the “skills gap” as a priority when they reclaimed control of the Legislature in 2012. Monday’s public hearing on LD 90, a bill sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, will offer the first look at how they propose to achieve that goal.
LD 90 is supposed to provide a framework to “amend state laws to help improve the ability of small businesses to innovate and expand.” The bill does not offer specifics on how to do so, but Monday’s hearing aims to move the process in that direction, Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said Wednesday.
During Monday’s hearing, the 15-member committee, chaired by House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, and Goodall, will outline 12 topics upon which it will focus.
Key elements of the committee’s work include making it easier for students in the state’s community college and university systems to transfer credits, improving access to degree and high-skills training programs in rural Maine, reducing waiting lists for high-demand programs at community colleges and fortifying the Maine Apprenticeship Program, according to Goodall.
The committee has identified Mainers who have started but abandoned post-secondary education programs as a key problem. Goodall described that group as a “huge stranded investment.”
“We know that when you earn a higher degree, your income level goes up and you become a more valuable employee,” he said, citing public scholarships matched by private funding as one way to help people complete degree programs.
The committee also will explore ways state agencies could help prepare laid-off workers to more rapidly return to the workforce through retraining, career planning and job application skills enhancement.
Other than a $300,000 request from the Maine Community College System to expand the Bring College to ME rural education program, no firm government costs have been attached to any of the proposals, Goodall said.
“This is a working draft,” he said. “We must know the cost of any new program before we act on it.”
The committee has collaborated with Gov. Paul LePage’s staff and state agency department representatives to formulate the draft proposals, Goodall said, emphasizing that release of the proposals does not represent an endorsement of the ideas or any associated costs.
Monday’s hearing also will address proposed legislation to create an integrated manufacturing program fund in York County, establish a better way to award academic credits to for training and experience gained while in military service and promote career development in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and energy efficiency trades.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday in the Cross Office Building adjacent to the State House.