Educating Maine's Workforce Part 1

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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) According to the Maine Department of Labor, three of the top eight most in demand jobs in the state are truck driving, carpentry, and general maintenance and repair work.

Also on the list are welders, auto and diesel mechanics, electricians, plumbers, along with heating and air conditioning installers and technicians.

Governor LePage has said Maine has good paying jobs if people want to work.

Schools at the high school and college levels are trying to make sure they're training people for the jobs available here in Maine.

And the people in those classrooms agree with the Governor that good jobs are waiting to be filled.

"Come here dedicated and ready to work" said Jesse Crosby the Welding Program Director, Beal College. "And we'll get you a job when you leave,"

According to Wayne Jackson the Plumbing & Heating Instructor at United Technologies Center in Bangor. "Businesses come to me, they are already coming to me now putting their names in for the best qualified students. They want the highest qualified, the students that excel in the program. I already have a list of businesses that want to hire them."

Those jobs are out there, and businesses need employees, so it's up to schools in Maine to provide the training to get people ready for those jobs said Sheryl Dewalt the President of Beal College. "The whole point of this school, from the beginning from 1891 when Mary Beal created it, was to provide training for the students to get education to get jobs."

"We hear everyday from our advisory committee members, our business and industry partners, that they have a need for an educated and trained workforce" said Lisa Larson the President of Eastern Maine Community College. "So that's our job. We go out there and find out what the skills are that are needed and we bring that back with our faculty and in our labs and our settings like this and our partnerships and make sure we're providing the best quality education and training to make sure that we are putting graduates out that are prepared to be in the workforce."

Jobs like plumbing, electrical, and especially heating in a climate like Maine will always have openings.

"People are not going to stop having their house warm, they're not going to stop using plumbing, so it's not like 'oh the mill got cut, you lose your job, what are we going to do now?'" said Jackson. "It's a job that's always going to be there."

According to Jackson, two thirds of plumbers in Maine are closing in on retirement age, so the openings will be increasing.

And Crosby feels that gap is because a generation of kids were pushed to get a four year degree. "It's starting to come that way, we got away from the trades for so long that I think people were discouraged from it for so long - go learn how to run a computer, keep your hands clean and you'll be fine - well there's people that need to build these factories, build these hospitals, need to build these power plants and when you only got people running computers, you don't have anybody to build those plants."

Just a couple of years ago, Lucas Stanley was graduating from high school in Lincoln and was headed off to UMaine for their engineering program. He was on a path many would consider a dream. It wasn't long before he realized it wasn't the dream for him. "I had taken some computer aided drafting classes that were available to me at Mattanawcook Academy and I really thought that I liked it at the time. It was really something I could see myself doing and I knew I'd make a lot of money doing it, and I never really incorporated my personal interests into that decision because everyone around me was pushing me to do it, so I never really gave any thought to anything else at that point."

So he dropped out of UMaine and worked for a year before enrolling in the welding program at Beal College.

Gavin Mathieu is a home schooled high school senior who found a traditional school setting was not the best way for him to learn, and when he went to United Technologies Center in Bangor, everything made sense. "It comes easy to me I guess, and I like it, so what would be better than doing something you love and that comes easy for the most part. Something that, if you're not good at school or hands on, definitely come here."

Now Gavin wants to continue his education and head into the fine woodworking program at EMCC.