For Immediate Release
House Republican Office
March 9, 2012
For more information:
Jay Finegan, 287-1445
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUSTAOn Tuesday, March 6, a bill designed to make it easier for young people to begin electrical careers received its public hearing before the Maine Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.
LD 1833, "An Act To Encourage Enrollment in High School Electrical Education Programs," is sponsored by Rep. Andre Cushing (R-Hampden) and supported by educators and employers across the state.
"I introduced this bill because, as Governor LePage has emphasized, we need to begin offering Maine's young people more opportunities through our education system," said Rep. Cushing. "For too long, there has been a disconnect between the education our young people receive and the skills our employers need."
In today's competitive work environment, education matters. The unemployment rate among those without a high school diploma is 15.4 percent, roughly two and a half times what it is for those with even just some college or vocational training.
"Not all kids will end up going to college, and our high schools should offer practical training to those who do not," said Rep. Cushing. "Vocational education gives many who would otherwise drop out a reason to stay in school, and it provides them not just with jobs, but with careers, when they graduate."
The bill would make two primary changes. First, it would increase the number of apprentices that a master or journeyman electrician may supervise from one to two. The apprentices must have completed or be enrolled in an accredited training program. Second, it would exempt high school students from having to pay the $96 in fees required for an apprentice's license.
Mark Powers, director of the Mid-Maine Technical Center, testified in favor of the bill. "This will permit students in our high school electrical programs to delay the purchase of 'helper' licenses until we are sure the students are committed to our program and their interest in pursuing a career as an electrician," he explained.
This is important, as many high school career counselors and technical instructors have expressed a concern that the fees associated with state licenses are a major deterrent to students who are exploring their options and not yet committed to a specific field.
Department of Labor statistics indicate that the bill meets a real need in Maine's economy. Almost 40 percent of master and journeyman electricians in Maine are age 55 and older, and many employers are concerned that they will soon face a dramatic shortage of qualified electricians. (Surprisingly, employment growth in jobs requiring vocational or associate's-level training is projected to double the growth in jobs requiring bachelor's degrees over the next few years.)
James Cote, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, also testified in favor of LD 1833. "The bottom line is that Maine builders want to hire more people, but they need people with the skills to do the jobs that are available," Cote said. "Rep. Cushing's bill will help us to fill those positions and provide good careers to Maine's young people."
Maine's unemployment rate is especially high among those who recently graduated high school - 16.2 percent of 20-24 year olds are unemployed, versus only 4.6 percent of 55-64 year olds.
"This situation needs to change if we want our kids to be able to stay in Maine," said Rep. Cushing. "I'm hopeful that with the right policies, we can make Maine a place not only to stay in, but return to." ###
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445