AUBURN — A day after meeting with Trump administration officials alongside other Maine politicians, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said he wants the city to focus more attention on education policies that can help address a forecasted labor shortage.
The White House event Tuesday was billed as a conference with Maine state and local leaders, featuring discussion with Trump administration officials on “pertinent issues impacting the state of Maine.”
Levesque, who was invited late last week, said about a dozen Maine officials made the trip.
They were all Republicans, though Levesque said Democratic officials were also invited.
Speaking during the conference were Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta and Deputy Secretary of Education Mick Zais.
Levesque said the dialogue was “open and frank,” and hit on issues like proficiency-based learning, the cost of education, and current and projected labor shortages.
He said in response, he’s now “absolutely convinced” that Auburn school and city officials need to come together to create an action plan to “help close the skills gap” and “reallocate school monies to the most appropriate and beneficial sector.”
Levesque said Auburn and Maine should consider longer school days and “training students for jobs that are here.” That means more emphasis on teaching specific trades, he said.
“We really need to have an honest conversation about what we’ve been doing in Auburn, and understand that it has not been to cover the skills gap and the labor shortage that we have in our own community,” he said.
In the past, Levesque has publicly shared concern over proficiency-based learning.
At one point Tuesday, Levesque posed for a photo in front of the White House with Maine state Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, who is running for State Senate in District 20.
In a Facebook post from the White House on Tuesday, Espling wrote, “Policy updates from the D.C. folks and brainstorming with Auburn’s mayor on how the state and city can work together to stabilize and/or lower property taxes in Auburn, and any town/city in Maine.”
Levesque said he received an invite to the White House event last week and still isn’t sure how his name was added to the list. He was the only Maine mayor to attend.
The conference was one in a series of “state days,” where local officials from specific states are invited to the White House to discuss specific issues. The events are put together by The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
“It really made me rethink what the rest of the country is doing, it was very eye-opening,” Levesque said.
Locally, the last-minute trip to Washington led to Levesque postponing his planned talks on a previous trade trip to China, scheduled at the Auburn Public Library. The talks will take place at noon and at 7 p.m. Oct. 23.
Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, right, stands with state Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. The pair were among roughly a dozen elected officials from Maine who attended a conference on issues affecting the state. (Submitted photo)