May 31, 2005
Lifelong Learning Accounts help workers upgrade skills
Augusta—Governor Baldacci today announced the launch of a new initiative that aims to increase access to lifelong learning for all adults by providing benefits employees can use for training and education.
Grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Ford Foundation will fund the Maine Department of Labor in the administration of the Lifelong Learning Accounts (LiLAs) program – which provides individual asset accounts to finance education and training designed to help workers upgrade their skills. Through LiLA accounts, employers match employee contributions in a program that is similar to a 401 (k) or health insurance program – but for education and training. LiLAs are being supported by a wide range of leaders throughout the state, which forms the Maine LiLA Partnership.
The Maine program would be the largest-scale effort of its kind in the country.
“An educated and well-trained workforce is key to the economic prosperity of Maine,” said Maine Labor Commissioner, Laura Fortman. “As technology and globalization continues to change the types of jobs in our economy and the way we do work, this initiative provides opportunities for adult workers upgrade and adapt their skills so that they can remain a competitive part of our workforce.”
“We are excited about the potential of this program in Maine, which we think can be another strong example of how Lifelong Learning Accounts can work around the country,” says Pamela Tate, President & CEO of the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (CAEL), which organized a multi-site LiLA demonstration project with support from the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and several other funders. “In most cases, public policy is more likely to address the needs of the unemployed for new jobs. Many workers, though, don’t qualify for these programs. The LiLA program will show how we can bring lifelong learning within the reach of people already in the workforce.”
The new grant will enable the state of Maine to position its public workforce system to scale up LiLAs on a statewide basis while meeting employer needs at the same time. The Maine program targets a group of people – lower-wage employees who are in the workforce and want to learn new skills – that often falls between the cracks when it comes to worker training and education.
A range of key stakeholders that form the Maine LiLA Partnership are working together to support and expand the program, including the Maine Finance Authority, the State Treasurer, Maine Centers for Women Work and Community, the Compact for Education, and representatives from trade associations, local workforce boards, community-based organizations, community colleges, and the university system.
A prominent feature of the Maine initiative will be the CareerCenter, a network of 23 centers across the state providing a range of employment services to employers, workers, and jobseekers. CareerCenter staff will be working with trade associations to engage in employer outreach activities. The initiative is designed to expand the services of the CareerCenter, which already offers career development and business service approaches, to better meet the needs of incumbent workers who need new skills and information to compete in the economy.
The targeted sectors for this program will include Information Technology, Precision Manufacturing, and Hospitality, which have been identified by Governor Baldacci’s Economic Development Plan and the U.S. Department of Labor as high-growth sectors of the economy.
Information Technology: Employment in this sector is projected to grow by 38.6% by 2010, adding over 3,300 jobs. Hospitality: As the largest employment sector in the state, this sector is directly responsible for 77,000 jobs. The sector is expected to grow by 10.9% by 2010, adding nearly 5,400 jobs. Precision Manufacturing: As the face of manufacturing changes in Maine, many of the new opportunities are in the areas of precision or niche manufacturing, where the frequent use of cutting edge technology necessitates a highly-skilled workforce.
Growing support for LiLAs around nation News about the Department of Labor and the Ford Foundation grants comes at a time when there is growing support for LiLAs on a national level. A new U.S. Senate bill expanding the program to 10 demonstration states could also be introduced in the current session.
The Maine LiLA Partnership is among a number of state-based efforts around the country that have laid the groundwork for LiLAs. LiLA policy initiatives are currently in place in Illinois, California, Oklahoma and Indiana. The LiLA demonstration programs have already enrolled more than 350 employees in specific sectors of the economy. Restaurant and catering, manufacturing, and municipal employees have benefited from the program in the ongoing demonstration.
The need for worker education figures will only grow in the coming years, research suggests. On a national level, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 15 million new jobs that require a college education will be created by 2020, but based on current attainment rates, projections show a new gain of perhaps only 3 million new workers with college credentials.
CAEL is a national non-profit organization that creates and manages effective learning strategies for working adults through partnerships with employees, higher education, government and labor. Over the last 30 years CAEL’s membership has grown to more than 600 institutions including corporations, unions and individuals, annually serving tens of thousands of learners and organizations. Headquartered in Chicago, CAEL maintains offices in Denver, Philadelphia, New York City and Connecticut. More information is available at www.cael.org