New education research highlights importance of programs like Thomas College's EDGE

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WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) - Education and business leaders from across the state met today to release new research on the future of Maine education and closing the skills gap.

"The report highlights Maine's skills gap challenge," says Kim Gore, State Director of Ready Nation. "We know that with our aging population and with fewer young people than older people that we have a mismatch between workers that are available for the jobs that we need both for today and into the future."

The research brief was published by ReadyNation and Mission: Readiness.

The event was held at Thomas College to highlight a program that had success in helping close that gap: the EDGE ("Engage, Develop, Guide, Empower") program. It's specifically aimed at first generation college students.

"It's a very innovative program that brings freshman to college campus about 10 days before everyone else," says Gore. "They live in a dorm, they take a very intense class over those 10 days. They're in that class 8 hours a day and they earn 3 credits."

Thomas College students who participated in EDGE in years past shared their experiences.

"The EDGE program was very, very inspiring and an incredible opportunity that I've had," says EDGE graduate Harley Douglas. "It taught me that I'm not going through it alone, that I have a support system that's here for me whenever I need it."

"That's something I'm very proud of, that I feel I accomplished was walking out of my shell at home, and it's just so awesome to see other students do it too," says EDGE graduate Glory Gomez.

Some EDGE students attended who are currently in the middle of the program.

"As a first generation, the only hard part is the unknown, but with EDGE, it teaches you that the EDGE is okay," says current EDGE student Joel Matondo.

"With getting my feet wet, I already know people," says current EDGE student Skyler Lewis. "I already have an experience of what the homework is going to be like with other classes that I'm taking, it just won't be so intense. And it'll give me a way to connect with people around."

Leaders praised the EDGE program and say that more programs like this would be helpful for the future of Maine's economy.