Maine’s job training dilemma

Education is essential to prepare a person for a job. It doesn’t matter if that job is an assembly position in a manufacturing facility or an executive position in a corner office. Education is essential to prepare Maine’s workforce for the future.

But Maine faces an inherent contradiction when it comes to education and job training, according to Charles Colgan, a former state economist and currently a professor at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.

Employers — both private and public — want to hire employees with lots of experience, who are well educated, adaptable and hard working, “and they want it for almost nothing in terms of wages,” explains Colgan in this brief video.

Employers could invest more in training their own employees — and some do — yet there again they face another dilemma. Employers are afraid that if they train their workers too well, they’re basically training them for their next job, Colgan says.

This is why public education is so important, Colgan says, “because you’re training the person regardless of which job they get.”

It’s a big problem, and it’s compounded by Maine’s troubling demographic trends. “Maine will not have a abundant workforce to attract employers with, [so] we better have a high quality one,” Colgan says. “Yet the truth is our education investments and training investments are not only not growing to meet the need, they’re actually shrinking.”

Maine needs to do more, he says.

“I don’t think we can simply take our current population and say, ‘Well, we’ll give you the education we can afford as opposed to the education you need, and good luck,’” he says.

Watch the video and learn more about what Colgan has to say about the debate.

BDN Maine Focus

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