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Updated: January 13, 2020 2020 Economic Forecast

20 on '20: Community colleges will play a key role in workforce development

Courtesy / Maine Community College System
Maine Community College System president David Daigler promotes programs, partnerships and other educational pathways across the system as essential to meet growing demand for skilled workers.

In 2020, Maine Community College System president David Daigler will continue to aggressively promote programs, partnerships and educational pathways as the state addresses the workforce shortage.

“The need for skilled workers is intense and that need will increase as more people retire and fewer Mainers enter the workforce,” he says. “That means the need for workforce development programs, tailored to today’s job market, is more important now than ever, and will grow in the future.”

The community college system is already stretching its resources to expand academic programming and short-term job training, he notes.

“Demand is so strong for these high-quality programs that we are turning away students and putting business partners on waiting lists for 2020-21,” he says. “We cannot meet this need with current funding. We are seeking more funding from the legislature to keep up with the demand.”

In the last two years, the system created 11 workforce training programs in areas like medical assisting, welding and computer support; and built or expanded 10 degree and certificate programs in the trades and technologies. As a result, the number of trainees who completed short-term training programs jumped almost 80%.

“Looking ahead, we’ll measure success by the number of people who get credentials of value that land them good jobs,” he says. “That means different things for different people. It could be a short-term leadership training program that upskills a mid-career employee into a management position. It could be stackable credentials that allows for an entry-level job to pay the bills while the student continues their education. It could be a 2-year program.”

He adds, “The only thing holding us back from providing more workforce training is funding, and we’re hard at work lining that up.”

Additional initiatives on the horizon include an increase in short-term job training programs and partnerships with companies to launch new programs tailor-made for their needs.

Daigler sees the success of these initiatives in individual students. One is a recent graduate of the system’s mechanized logging program, a no-tuition, three-month, hands-on training course.

“Before this program, this student was making $11 an hour,” he says. “He got no overtime, no benefits and he struggled to pay his bills and support his family. After he graduated from the program, he got a job at double his previous wages. Other graduates had offers before they even finished.”

Well-paying jobs sit empty because people don’t have certain skills, he says: “That’s where we come in, creating the programs that result in skilled workers ready to enter the workforce.”

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