A few weeks ago, I wrote about “The Future of Maine’s Economy,” and talked about some forward-looking economic strategies for Maine’s future. One of those strategies that I mentioned was investing in career and technical education (CTE) and its role in training Maine’s future workforce.

I wanted to dive into that a little bit more this week, as I have recently introduced legislation to support CTE schools in Maine.

By way of background, Maine has 27 different career and technical education schools, called “regions” or “centers,” across the state. The southernmost school is the Sanford Regional Technical Center and the northernmost school is the St. John Valley Technology Center in Frenchville. The largest CTE school in Maine is the United Technology Center (UTC) in Bangor, which serves students from Bangor High School, Brewer High School, Central High School (Corinth), Hampden Academy, Hermon High School, Old Town High School and Orono High School, and offers adult education courses.

These schools take high school students from their local school districts, as well as surrounding school districts and provide them with the opportunity to learn skills that they can use for a career in the trades.

For example, Northern Penobscot Tech Region 3 in Lincoln offers courses in a variety of subjects including commercial driving, automotive technology, welding, web design, medical assisting and more. Students from Lee Academy, Penobscot Valley High School, Schenck High School, Stearns High School and Mattanawcook Academy can attend, and their graduates have gone on to work across the state and world in a wide variety of fields.

One thing that makes these programs successful is that they partner with local businesses and institutions to make sure that coursework is relevant to the current needs in the job market and what is being taught in higher education courses.

This model can set students up for a high-paying career in a high-demand field, and importantly, will help us fill needed positions in trades. This is a bigger issue than you might think.

You may have heard or read recently that the Maine Department of Transportation had to cancel several planned infrastructure projects because the bids for the projects came in much higher than anticipated. This is due to a lack of qualified contractors, which reduces the competition for these bids and drives up prices. The lack of contractors is caused in part by a lack of qualified workers.

To be perfectly clear, this is a problem we could fix by encouraging more students to take advantage of CTE programs, and investing more in these programs. And that’s just one example — there are many other ways that this could help our economy.

That’s why I introduced LD 1606, “An Act To Increase Funding for Career and Technical Education Programs,” which would boost funding for these schools and remove a provision that capped the amount of money a particular program could receive.

It’s an important step to supporting these critical programs that are so important for our young people’s future and the future of the state.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d like to hear from you. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (207) 287-1515. I work for you, and you have a right to hold me accountable.

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