SANFORD — Maine military contractors, community colleges and universities, state agencies and the U.S. Navy announced Friday that they are launching a $6.5 million effort to attract and train thousands of workers to begin addressing “unprecedented workforce needs” in the state’s defense industry.

The group, called the Maine Defense Industry Alliance, will establish a workforce development system and focus on recruiting, training and upgrading workers’ skills. Jobs include precision machining, welding, marine design, manufacturing and advanced manufacturing, and registered apprenticeships.

Bath Iron Works in January. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The move comes as Maine’s largest defense contractors – General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – need new, highly skilled employees, coalition partners said.

“This partnership is intentionally focused on the current and unprecedent workforce needs for Maine’s defense industry,” David Daigler, president of the Maine Community College System, said at an announcement ceremony at York County Community College’s Center for Excellence in Manufacturing and Trades in Sanford.

Educational partners include the Maine Community College System, University of Maine System, Maine Maritime Academy and The Roux Institute of Northeastern University.

The defense sector employs more than 20,000 workers at more than 150 companies in Maine. Defense spending in the state was $3.2 billion in 2021, according to the partners.


Gov. Janet Mills reminded the audience that Maine-built ships are patrolling the Red Sea to protect shipping under attack by Houthi rebels.

“What we do here in Maine, what we build here in Maine, what we produce here in Maine matters to the nation. It matters to the rest of the world,” she said.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, said the cornerstone of U.S. national security is deterrence, making sure potential adversaries know there will be harsh consequences if they attack the U.S.

“That’s why what we’re doing here is so important,” he said.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, emphasized the creation of well-paid manufacturing jobs central to the partnership. “It’s a reminder that this is about our families in Maine, our young people in Maine, the jobs of the future, the opportunities to work in the trades,” she said.

In a reminder that U.S. military might is not universally welcomed, about a dozen protesters gathered outside the community college site to criticize U.S. policy and defense contractors for their support of Israel in its war against Hamas.


Global threats are multiplying in Europe as Russian President Vladimir Putin presses the offensive in Ukraine, the Mideast where Iran proxies are hitting targets in Israel, Syria and the Red Sea, and Asia where growing Chinese military threats worry the region. Shipbuilders and other defense industry executives, members of Congress, the Defense Department and other players say the need to hire workers to build battleships, submarines and other military equipment is greater now than it has been in decades.

Maine’s defense contractors and subcontractors must significantly ramp up hiring in the next five years, adding between 1,200 and 1,700 skilled workers a year, the partnership said. Including hiring to fill jobs vacated by retirees and others who quit as part of workplace turnover, Bath Iron Works, Pratt & Whitney and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard anticipate they will need to fill more than 7,500 jobs.

Efforts to boost U.S. sea power are underway elsewhere. Virginia-based Huntington Ingalls Industries, a military shipbuilder like Bath Iron Works, said it’s accelerating its workforce development. The president of Electric Boat, a nuclear submarine manufacturer in Connecticut and Rhode Island, said recently it hired and trained 5,300 new employees last year and will recruit at the same pace into the next decade.

York County Community College will build a 10,000-square-foot addition for a welding lab at its Sanford facility, establishing the school’s Center for Excellence in Manufacturing and Trades. The college will train as many as 1,500 prospective workers a year in various trade programs.

The community college will fund the expansion with $3.5 million from the Submarine Industrial Base, $1.5 million of its own and $1.5 million in federal funding.

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