Lawmakers Begin Work On Strengthening Maine’s Workforce 

A bipartisan committee charged with strengthening Maine’s workforce and closing what’s known as the skills gap met Monday in Augusta. “We want to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need,” said Senator Seth Goodall, the Democratic House Majority Leader. “We know employers locate where there’s a high quality of skills and hardworking people. We have the hard working people. We have a lot of great skills. But we need to improve them as well.”Senator Roger Katz, an Augusta Republican, is also on the committee. “The fact is there are good paying jobs out there,” Katz said Monday. “A couple of examples, welders at Bath Iron Works, another, precision manufacturing here in Augusta at Kennebec Technologies where there are jobs that are going unfilled because we’re not training people for the available jobs.”Both sides agree, solving that problem starts with doing away with the stigma that manufacturing and precision machining jobs are bottom of the barrel work. The reality is they’re good paying careers with benefits and they’re available right now. “We’ve got to get away from this model where if you’re not going on to a four year college, like I did, somehow you have failed and you’re a second class citizen,” Katz said. “The fact is there are many good paying jobs out there that are not a liberal arts degree. Not law degrees like I have. And we’ve got to celebrate those professions as well.”The committee will be in Bangor Wednesday, touring Advance Manufacturing Center at the University of Maine, followed by a panel discussion and public hearing at the Eastern Maine Community College. The committee expects their fact finding mission to last around six months before they start proposing legislation and other fixes. But they don’t plan to stop there. “We want to make sure at the end of the day that we get it right. In addition, the conversation has to be ongoing. It can’t just be a few months,” Goodall said.