LABOR SHORTAGE AND RISING HIGHER EDUCATION COSTS CREATE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR MAINE STUDENTS
Local Schools Establish a Network to Connect Industry and Education
December 2, 2019
Maine’s local businesses are considering how they will continue to operate efficiently and effectively in the future given the state’s current labor shortage and the growth of its retired population. With an unemployment rate below the national average and a “super-aged” populace, Maine industries are trying to resolve how and where they will find their future employees. Simultaneously, high school students are burdened with rising costs of higher education and must conduct a clear cost-benefit analysis of their educational investment and future earnings. This increased financial pressure has made it important for students to gain practical work experience prior to committing to an educational path for a specific career.
To help bridge the gap between industry and education, school districts have invested in positions such as business and community partnership coordinators to facilitate practical job experience for students and also engage students in potential opportunities within key industries in the state. These professionals serve as liaisons between students and the business community, providing connections to help develop the future workforce.
The Community Coordinators Collective (C3) is a newly formed organization comprised of education professionals working to support students with career exploration. The group was developed to share resources and provide a platform for industry associations and business organizations to discuss potential workplace opportunities for students. C3 members and their school districts recognize the critical need for supporting students with opportunities to explore and define interests and learn about the skills necessary post-graduation.
Rick Wilson, Community Outreach & Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator for Brunswick High School, is a founding member who chairs the group of more than twenty educators throughout Southern Maine. “Our group members are the point people who connect business and community members with students eager to learn about fields and career opportunities,” Wilson said. “We encourage students’ curiosity and work to match their interests with experiences beyond the classroom through job shadows, internships, field visits and work-based training programs.”
A key objective of the group has been to provide a platform for business professionals and industry associations to share information about career paths and important workplace skills. Often students are unaware of opportunities within the state including offers of possible tuition reimbursement and job training. Many private sector industries have realized that they must better communicate with schools to engage students prior to graduation and be proactive in order to attract their future workforce. The Community Coordinators Collective has welcomed partners to present and collaborate at their monthly meetings, including Maine Society of CPAs, MaineHealth, USM, Junior Achievement, Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin and the Manufacturers Association of Maine (MAME).
“The manufacturing sector has been experiencing the 'labor crisis’ for many years. It is key to economic growth to have a skilled workforce. MAME is the lead coordinator for aligning schools to local manufacturing businesses across the state to show students and educators the world of modern manufacturing and career opportunities. Since 2013, we have brought over 11,500 students and educators into manufacturing facilities across Maine! A growing fact we are extremely proud of!” Lisa G. Martin, Executive Director.
On December 6th, C3 members will present at the Educate Maine Symposium and provide an overview of career pathways programs in Maine schools.
Rick Wilson (Brunswick), Jane Eberle (South Portland), Gretchen McCloy (South Portland), Dede Bennell (Freeport), Allison Ellis (Massabesic High School), Samantha Brink (Sanford), Linda Roth, John Holdridge (Cape Elizabeth), Heather D'Ippolito (Baxter Academy), Christy Zavasnik (Scarborough), Lanet Hane (Windham/Raymond), Daniel Westhoven (Greely High School), Eliza S. Kenigsberg (Gorham), Todd Park (Winthrop), Shenaugh Tripp (Yarmouth), Andrea Levinsky (Portland), Susan Johnson (Traip Academy), Johanna Albanese (Westbrook), Justine Carlisle (Yarmouth), Sydney Williams (Portland), Michael Hale (Portland), Cara Flannery (Nokomis), Colleen Nobert (Naples), Thomas M. Macisso, Jr. (Kennebunk), Lisa Curran-Crimp (Kennebunk).