Maine Community Colleges Can Help Meet Workforce Needs By “Keeping Up With Business”

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This is one of the most common signs of the times, literally: Help Wanted.

Apparently, just about every business you walk into these days is looking to hire more people. The reasons for this labor shortage, which is so acutely felt by so many industries, are manifold, as are the potential solutions.

A recent poll sent by the Maine Department of Labor found that of 2,500 people surveyed looking for work in Maine, 34% said a lack of opportunities that matched their skills was the main reason they didn’t. were not going back to work. And as a follow-up, 20% of those surveyed said they needed additional training to be able to return to work.

At one important point, a promising new initiative from the Maine Community College System entered the chat.

Earlier this month, the community college system, Governor Janet Mills and others unveiled a four-year, $ 60 million effort to try to tackle demographic trends and labor shortages. thanks to a new virtual training and education center. The Harold Alfond Center for the Advancement of the Workforce of Maine is funded by $ 35 million in state administered federal funds, $ 15.5 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation, and additional industry support private and other grants.

College system leaders spoke to BDN’s editorial board on Oct. 18 about this new effort, which grew in part from the success of the System Quality Centers program, which provides short-term training to meet to the immediate needs of the business community. .

“The basic principle was to work directly with companies, to identify the skills that employers need for new jobs or currently vacant jobs, and to use those funds to help train – in training programs. short term – people interested in these jobs. , ”System President David Daigler told us about the Quality Centers program. “And then we hit the pandemic, and we found out how essential this program was, because it was so nimble, because it was able to scale very quickly to meet the changing needs of business and industry.”

Responsiveness and agility are the key here. Daigler encouragingly pointed out a phrase that he believes is used frequently in the community college system, “keep pace with business” and we believe this is a critical way to approach these training efforts to move forward. the front.

It may not be possible for businesses, governments and educational institutions to foresee an unforeseen situation like a global pandemic, but it is possible to put in place systems that can adapt to the present moment. Working to make this happen, not at the speed of government or academia, but at the speed of business, can be an invaluable approach.

College System Communications Director Noel Gallagher also highlighted the importance of training for employees as a path to higher pay. Daigler also discussed how employers who support training for their employees send a signal to those employees that they are valued.

In our view, responding to the current work situation is as much about meeting the needs of employees as it is about meeting the needs of employers. This new community college network initiative has the potential to help both sides of the equation.

Dan Belyea, who heads the quality centers program and will coordinate the new training efforts, called the inflow of funding a “historic investment in the Maine workforce” which he says has never been seen before in the state.

As we have said about other pandemic relief funding, this presents a tremendous and transformative opportunity. But this requires follow-up on the part of the organizations and officials involved in these historic investments. Such large funding demands significant results.


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