LePage, urges students to consider manufacturing careers

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said Monday the state’s public schools in recent decades have encouraged all students to work toward four-year degrees and that approach is unrealistic and “simply not defensible.”

Matthew Stone/Bangor Daily News

Gov. Paul LePage discusses manufacturing jobs in Maine during a State House news conference on Monday. The conference was held to launch a statewide effort aimed at enticing middle- and high-school students to pursue manufacturing careers.

LePage made the remarks at a State House news conference held to unveil a two-year, $300,000 public awareness campaign designed to interest middle- and high-school students in manufacturing careers.

“Not every child is going to go to college,” he said. “And we have a responsibility to our children to provide them with the opportunities for a good education. A good education is a game-changer for everyone.”

Joining LePage at Monday’s news conference were representatives from Maine manufacturing businesses and four students from Oakland’s Messalonskee High School.

The state’s community colleges, universities and career and technical education high schools are doing important work to prepare students for today’s high-skill manufacturing jobs, the governor said.

“I think there’s a lot of good things happening with our CTEs, the university system, the community college system,” LePage said. “They’re all part of this whole process of developing a manufacturing base.”

The public awareness effort, led by the Manufacturers Association of Maine, will lead to partnerships among schools and manufacturers that allow students to tour manufacturing facilities and participate in internships, said Lisa Martin, the association’s executive director.

In addition, manufacturing leaders will visit schools to discuss their businesses and careers with students.

Schools and businesses traditionally have struggled to set up such partnerships, Martin said, so the Manufacturers Association of Maine plans to hire a full-time coordinator to establish those connections. Also included in the outreach effort will be a new student-oriented website that allows kids to explore manufacturing career options and videos that show where products manufactured in Maine end up, said Paul Tyson, an association member and general manager at Thermoformed Plastics of New England, located in Biddeford.

“It’s really going to have a great impact,” Martin said.

Paul Stearns, superintendent of School Administrative District 4 in Guilford and president of the Maine School Superintendents Association, said he largely agreed with LePage’s assessment that schools have focused on preparing students to pursue four-year degrees. But that’s because past state policies have de-emphasized the importance of career and technical education, he said.

“Schools will tend to do what the government asks them to do,” Stearns said.

LePage said the Department of Economic and Community Development will invest $50,000 in the manufacturing jobs initiative. The Manufacturers Association of Maine plans to raise the remaining $250,000 from its members.

Manufacturing jobs provide the basic infrastructure that helps communities flourish, LePage said.

“It’s the bricks and mortars that go along with the jobs,” he said. “It’s the families that go and live in these communities. This is what we need, particularly for the young folks so we can keep them here in Maine.”

Maine’s manufacturing sector has consistently shed jobs in recent years, according to state Department of Labor statistics. In 2011, the sector employed about 51,000 people in Maine, compared to about 79,000 in 2000.

But the sector isn’t dead, the governor said, and manufacturing jobs pay well. The average manufacturing wage in 2011 was about $50,000, compared to an average of $38,000 for all other Maine jobs, the labor department statistics show.

“I’m proud that these companies in Maine are really innovative companies that are really on the cutting edge, and particularly in machining,” he said. “It’s just incredible some of the stuff that’s happening, and it’s really exciting.”

A 2010 Department of Labor analysis projected that employment in the manufacturing would continue to drop between 2010 and 2018, losing another 10 percent of its jobs. But the analysis predicted employment growth in chemical, plastics and machinery manufacturing.

Manufacturing business leaders at Monday’s news conference said they’re starting to have trouble finding skilled replacements for retiring workers.

“We need young people with the skills and aptitude to run these machines,” said Bob Maynes, marketing director for the Belfast windows manufacturer Mathews Bros. “We need to know who will take us through the next 159 years.”

“Our workforce is aging, and as they retire, there is not necessarily a pipeline of replacements coming up behind them,” said Alexandra Ritchie, director of government and community relations for the New Hampshire investment firm Cate Street Capital. “We need to cultivate that pipeline.”

Cate Street Capital in 2011 bought the Katahdin Paper Co.’s shuttered mills in East Millinocket and Millinocket from the previous owner, Brookfield Asset Management. Cate Street Capital has reopened the East Millinocket mill and is exploring the possibility of having a torrefied wood facility at the site of the closed Millinocket mill and turning the mill property into an industrial park.

In addition to industry-specific training, LePage on Monday said employers could benefit if it were easier for young people to get jobs earlier in life so they can gain workplace experience and pick up basic job skills.

“Allowing a child to wait until 16 years old to get their first job in life is too late in life,” he said. “It’s like my trying to learn Russian.”

Currently, Maine requires any student 15 or younger obtain a work permit in order to get a job, and the local school superintendent has to sign the permit to indicate the student is in good academic standing.

LePage also said Maine’s community colleges need more capacity so they can shrink wait lists for key programs and turn away fewer students seeking training. He said he’s working on a solution to provide the Maine Community College System with additional resources. His budget proposal keeps community college funding at its current level for the upcoming two-year budget cycle.

“It’s much longer-term than snapping your fingers when you’re broke,” LePage said.

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Steve  Dosh's picture

LePage, urges students to consider manufacturing careers

Matthew ? 5 pm hst ?
. . This is 19th century solution to a 21st century problem •
Your Hon Gov. is fooling no body except his-self  
Is he broke ? We'd certainly like to see his tax return for FY 2 0 1 2
/s Steve

 's picture


Yes Gary I read that article and I ask again. Where are the so called jobs in manufacturing? Take one area. Farmington Maine for an example. Franklin County even.. Shoe factories from hear to Lewiston ALL GONE but meybe two. Foster Manufacturing in Wilton and Strong, GONE. The Tannery in East Wilton, GONE. The wood turning mill in West Farmington, GONE, The mill that canned greens and fiddleheads in Wilton, GONE, Foster Manufacturing in Dryden, Gone, Foster's in Strong, GONE. I could go on but I won't. This is all in a small area in Franklin county. I
Know all this as FACT. So don't ask me if I read the article. I stand on what I said earlier. The Governor is giving us all a snowjob. As to what he says these people made is( BS). My husband and I worked as HANDSEWERS (which is a highly skilled job) a combined total of about 90 years and we was good at our jobs , we worked hard and never made money like Mr. LePage says was made. You can believe him if you want but I like to think I am not that stupid.


addendum to Lip Service

should read $200 million


Lip service

Education, like anything else our Guvnuh rails about, costs money. Property taxpayers are tapped out Mr. LePage. You are rapidly turning education into yet another unfunded mandate.

Meet with the legislative leaders without having a tantrum or calling them childish names (as you did with Senator Alfond) and tell them your $200 tax cut was a mistake and that you'll go along with rescinging it this year. The week that tax cut took effect, you and your sycophants started talking about the need for cuts and dumping more financial responsibility on the towns and cities. I know you're not that stupid that you can't make the connection.

Plain spoken or bully. it doesn't matter. You are living, nreathing proof that a business career does not qualify you to be an elected official.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Running these machines.....

If your a person in your fifties, and someone says to you that he runs a machine at the local plant You automatically think of the old mechanical machine with numerous belts and sullies, and all sorts of levers and blockers conveyor belts and a whole lot of luck in keeping a machine running. Those machines have gradually transitioned into more computerized, automated manufacturing machines, or lines as their known as now. I have worked on old lines, while they have been magically transformed into new modern lines. I have worked on teams constructing new and state of the art lines that require raw materials be put in one end, and new, packaged and palletized product comes out the other end ready to load on the truck. There is very little need for hands on in the actual manufacturing aspect of the job, but computer skills are needed, nor suggested, and the ability to learn, and continue to learn is essential.
One lesson I have learned latter in life is, hating school when I was in high school, wasn't a complete waste. I may not have learned a lot of English, Geography or History in school, but oblivious to me, I did pick up one thing, something that has benefited me both professionally and financially, that is the ability to learn. I feel the most important skill to gain in life is the ability to learn.
The work force of today, needs the ability to learn and keep learning, and that is a skill that is instilled in school, with or without your knowledge. I have trained people at quite a few levels of the newer manufacturing lines. It becomes immediately evident that someone is either going to jump in and go with it, or stand there and scratch his head.
The days of quitting school in the ninth grade and working in the mill are over. In order to prosper in today's manufacturing world you need the school taught ability to learn, after that, everything else is a piece of cake.......

 's picture

Manufacturing Jobs


GARY SAVARD's picture

Lorraine, did you read the

Lorraine, did you read the article? In it, there is an explanation of where the jobs are, and it also mentions that the jobs require skills, and as such they pay quite well.


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