AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Republicans and Democrats joined business and labor leaders to show their support for a bill designed to make a variety of investments to strengthen Maine's workforce.
"There is nothing worse than knowing that we have over 50,000 unemployed people in Maine and thousands of jobs unfilled because they don't have the skills," lamented John Fitzsimmons, president of Maine's Community College System. "I think our job as a state is to find those resources to close those gaps and make us competitive for the future."
Fitzsimmons says the state's community colleges turned away about 4,000 people last year because there were not enough spaces for them on campus or in the classroom. He says 83 of their programs were at maximum capacity, but starting this fall, the school will receive an influx of funding to add students and courses that will train them for jobs that are in high demand if L.D. 90, An Act to Strengthen Maine's Workforce and Economic Future, is approved.
"We're here today to showcase our bipartisan work and our unanimous report," stated Senator Seth Goodall, Co-Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Maine's Workforce and Economic Future.
"We believe that L.D. 90 will help us to make big strides towards strengthening our state's prosperity and our economy generally," added Co-Chair, Representative Seth Berry.
The bill calls for expanded training opportunities at Maine's Community Colleges and increased educational offerings in rural parts of the state where unemployment is high and wages typically are lower.
It will also fund apprenticeship programs and help coordinate industry partnerships between businesses and educators to make sure workers are trained for the jobs available.
The bill would also streamline the process for students to transfer credits between the University of Maine System and the state's community colleges.
"There are many, many people throughout the state of Maine who are going to benefit in direct ways in terms of increasing their education, enhancing their workforce skills and enabling themselves, their families,their communities, the businesses they work for to move forward in a substantial and tangible way," stated James Page, chancellor of the University of Maine System.
The bill will now head to the Senate for debate early next week, and if passed, many of the initiative's components could begin to be implemented by this fall.