Building a larger, stronger workforce has been a longtime priority to ensure Maine’s economic success. It has never been more important than today, as we face a tightening labor pool.

Innovation needs to take center stage in directing the jobs of the future. While many job training and career pathways exist, it is exciting that additional opportunities are emerging, like the one at the University of Maine at Farmington (“UMF launches college credit program for high school students,” Aug. 22).

These pre-college courses in a variety of fields offer high school students an introduction both to post-secondary learning and careers of interest. They support students’ future success, as well as our employers and economy.

Altogether, programs like UMF’s — along with those at high schools/CTEs, other colleges, employers and nonprofits — are working toward a shared aspiration: meeting Maine’s workforce needs and helping position individuals for success.

This aspiration is an essential component of MaineSpark, a coalition of education and business leaders working to ensure that, by 2025, 60% of Mainers will hold credentials of value. Likewise, this aspiration also shows up in the priorities and recommendations in the newest Making Maine Work: Critical Investments for the Maine Economy report by the Maine State Chamber, Maine Development Foundation and Educate Maine, and in Maine’s 2020-2029 Economic Development Strategy.

The more job training and education opportunities Maine offers, including UMF’s Early College Pathways program, the stronger our state, people, communities and economy will be.

Simon West, Gardiner, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation and member of ReadyNation

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