Maine Community College System Announces $ 60 Million Workforce Training Program to Address Challenging Economic Trends


The Maine Community College System is launching a new $ 60 million effort to create an online job training platform, with the goal of training more than 24,000 workers over the next four years. Companies hope the initiative will significantly reduce the labor shortage that has left hundreds of jobs vacant at some companies.

At an event on Tuesday, government and labor officials highlighted a major trend in the state’s labor market: Thousands of workers still struggle to find jobs as businesses continue. to report few, if any, candidates for their posts.

To help close that gap, officials announced a new $ 60 million initiative from the Maine Community College System to create a state-wide virtual skills training platform.

System chairman David Daigler said it would offer three types of training opportunities: short-term programs to get people into the workforce, continuing education for current workers, and college courses to help. the Mainers who started – but never completed – a college degree.

“We now have a vehicle to work with our business partners. And we can create pathways for the people of Maine to get credentials, and that’s the information they need to move forward,” he said. said Daigler.

As an example, Daigler said a worker could use the new online training to become a certified nursing assistant and then continue with additional instructions to eventually become a medical assistant.

The new $ 60 million initiative will be funded primarily by $ 35 million in state-allocated federal funds, plus a $ 15.5 million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation. Daigler says that by training 24,000 workers over the next four years in areas such as education, healthcare and manufacturing, companies can emerge from the pandemic and keep pace with the changing labor market.

“Maine needs to help businesses improve their productivity,” Daigler said. “We need to help businesses keep pace with today’s economy and a rapidly changing business climate.”

And these companies say help is needed as they struggle to find help.

“In 2021 alone, we hired 1,700 people,” said Jon Mason, vice president of human resources at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. “And believe it or not, we’re still struggling to find enough people to fill all of our vacancies.”

Mason said BIW has previously worked with the community college system to quickly find and train some of its new workers. But the company will likely still have to fill some 1,500 additional jobs by the end of next year.

“We have literally pulled hundreds of qualified applicants out of these pipeline programs already. And what this investment will allow is the ability to expand these programs, which we are already showing are working. For the benefit of BIW and many other businesses in Maine, large and small, ”Mason said.

Labor rights defenders are also encouraged by this effort. Maine AFL-CIO spokesman Andy O’Brien said he was pleased to see the new training will focus on sectors such as education, manufacturing and healthcare, but he also wants to ensure that workers are trained for quality jobs with living wages and benefits. .

“Training is important. But it has to be paired with strong labor standards, ”said O’Brien.

Business and worker advocates say training is only one piece of the puzzle to get more people into jobs – and that barriers, including child care and transportation, still prevent many to return to the labor market.

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