It is time to upgrade Maine’s workforce and the recently announced projections of an additional budget surplus provides an excellent opportunity. A combination of factors has led to a decline in Maine’s workforce, with an aging population, brain drain, infrastructure and housing concerns, and increasing education costs being prominent factors. The decline has caused shortages in highly skilled career fields, like nursing, project and operations managers, teaching, engineering, and various construction-based jobs, throughout the state. The state’s rural regions are being hurt even more by the decline. All is not doom and gloom, however.

I built a plan during my recent master’s in public policy capstone project, which focused on workforce development. My plan centers around reducing costs of education and boosting apprenticeships. Maine should provide a last-dollar scholarship to those obtaining a higher-education degree in Maine, community college and four-year degrees, that addresses careers facing a worker shortage. In return for the last-dollar scholarship, students will commit to remaining in Maine after graduation for at least the duration of their schooling plus one year.

To increase apprenticeships, Maine should provide a $1,500 tax credit for each apprentice a company takes on. Providing oversight of these programs would be the new Maine Workforce Development Commission, made up of representatives from the local business community, educational institutions, and economic development groups. Funding for these programs could easily be covered by the projected surplus of $223 million.

Through my suggested plan Maine can take dramatic steps towards boosting Maine’s workforce. Further, new industries that are waiting to take off in Maine, like offshore wind, satellite development and launching, and advanced wood materials, can take advantage of the increased skills in Maine’s newly improved workforce. Improving the workforce will reverse the negative trends affecting Maine and propel the state’s economy into the future.


Zachary Phillips

Concord, N.H.

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