AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Despite the recession and unemployment, Maine's manufacturing companies say they have jobs each year they can't fill. And they worry the problem will grow worse in the years ahead, as more current workers retire, and fewer younger workers step up to fill the jobs.
That's why the Manufacturers Association of Maine today announced a new project to reach out to students across the state, to try to interest them in careers or jobs in manufacturing. Members of the MAM joined with Governor paul LePage to make the announcement.
The MAM says Maine has 51,000 manufacturing jobs now, and that wages for those jobs average 28% higher than other industries in Maine. Leaders of several businesses spoke of how their workforce and Maine's workforce is aging, and the widespread concern that there won't be enough younger workers "in the pipeline" to replace them.
The MAM project is focused on building stronger connections between manufacturing businesses and schools. Business leaders say they plan to go to the schools to tell students about job opportunities, and bring students into the plans to show them the kinds of high-tech work that's being done today. The MAM also plans to use websites and videos to reach out to young people to interest them in manufacturing. The project is being given $50,000 from the Maine department of Economic and Community Development, MAM leaders say that will be matched by larger donations from member businesses, to pay the costs of the outreach program.
Governor LePage reiterated some of his criticism of K-12 schools, saying they need to do a better job of preparing students for careers, and recognize that not all students should go to four year colleges. However, the Governor praised Maine's Community Colleges, and said that system needs to be expanded to meet the current demand for training and education, as well as future growth. The Governor said he is "working on a plan" to accomplish that.