Much has been made lately of Maine’s skills gap — the chasm between what skills and knowledge workers have and what employers need. Gov. Paul LePage has made closing this gap a high priority.
This work is complicated by the fact that the gap — and its causes and consequences — varies widely across the state.
Consider the tale of two counties. Cumberland County, with an unemployment rate that is significantly lower than the national average and a per-capita income that is much higher than the state average, has for years stood alone in Maine as a marker of prosperity, according to former Maine State Economist Laurie LaChance.
Cumberland County also has the state’s highest education rates, with nearly 40 percent of its residents over age 25 having obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, according to U.S. Census figures.
“When you have a population where the income is a little higher and the educational attainment is higher, it provides opportunities,” LaChance, who is now the president of Thomas College in Waterville, said this week. “Success does breed success, I think.”
But the story is very different in other parts of the state.