I appreciated a Sept. 19 guest column by University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings about an effort USM is launching at its Lewiston-Auburn campus. I believe the “LA to BA” initiative holds great promise for LA region’s economy, people, and employers, as well as Maine’s statewide economic potential.

The focus areas and plans for “LA to BA” — health care, early college and dual enrollment, New Mainers, and engaging with businesses and the community college system — are right on target. They will help dissolve significant barriers to higher education in the region.

Combined with other efforts, such as expanding the availability of child care, strengthening the child care workforce, and addressing challenges like transportation and housing, we can make real progress and foster opportunities for all people.

“LA to BA” also will move forward a key goal of the statewide MaineSpark coalition. With more than 100 organizations behind it, MaineSpark is making significant headway toward ensuring that 60% of Maine people hold the education degrees or credentials they and Maine employers need for success. Today, that percentage of Mainers is 53%, up from 43% when the initiative launched four years ago.

When we work together to remove barriers to higher education and workforce participation, we strengthen Maine people, families and communities, and Maine’s workforce, employers and economy. Multiple strategies are needed to get Maine where we want and need to be.

USM’s initiative is another positive effort that, by recognizing and maximizing the potential of our region, will move Maine forward.

Shawn Yardley, CEO of Community Concepts, Inc. in Lewiston, board member of Educate Maine

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