Preparing Maine High School Students for Lifelong, Rewarding Careers in the Trades

Every day, I hear about workforce challenges and needs from all across the state.

We all know that Maine desperately needs more electricians, plumbers, welders, and other skilled workers as well as teachers, and law enforcement, and firefighters, and so much more – and health care workers.

But this week, I announced that my administration is investing in four of our Career and Technical Education Centers to help prepare students for lifelong, rewarding careers in the trades.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills, and thank you for listening.

I have always been a strong believer in the power of Career and Technical Education – or CTE, for short. These programs equip Maine high school students with the skills and hands-on experiences to prepare them for good-paying jobs.

That’s why when I was Attorney General, I funded new plumbing programs at four different schools using settlement funds from a settlement with Bath Fitter corporation.

Maine’s 27 CTE regions and centers – which can be accessed by all Maine high school students– enroll more than 9,800 students in 85 different programs ranging from plumbing and welding to early childhood education and health care. 

Students in these programs can earn industry accreditation, and/or college credits while earning their high school diploma, preparing them to graduate already ready enter the workforce or move on to higher education.

But despite the transformative role that CTE programs can play in the lives of Maine’s young people, and in building a skilled workforce to strengthen our economy, for decades our state has not done nearly enough to invest in modernizing or expanding this effective model of education – including investing in equipment.

We see the effects of that today, as Maine faces a severe shortage of workers and skilled tradespeople. 

So, two years ago I proposed to invest $20 million from my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan – that is federal funds – into Maine’s CTEs to enhance and expand programs and to upgrade equipment and facilities so more young people can benefit from these programs.

On Monday, I announced that my administration is awarding $15 million of those funds to four different Maine CTEs so they can expand real-word programs for Maine students in plumbing, electrical, building construction, culinary, hospitality, welding, emergency medical techs and other health care occupations, and much more.

For instance, this investment will allow the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology to build a two-story addition to the existing high school to expand its plumbing and EMT programs, and to create new programs in culinary arts and hospitality and athletic training.

These funds will also enable Northern Penobscot Tech Region III in Lincoln, Maine to build an addition in order to add five welding booth ventilators, ten welding booths, and ten welders.

Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico will be able to expand and enhance its CTE facilities – including new classroom space for its welding program, constructing a new greenhouse, a store, outdoor kitchen, and classroom for its culinary arts program.

And this investment will allow Oxford Hills Technical School in Norway to construct a new free-standing building to expand their plumbing, electrician, and building construction training programs.

On Monday, I visited Oxford Hills Technical School, where I met a young man named Conner Cram, a third-year student in the school’s plumbing program. In addition to his time in the classroom, Conner is gaining real-world experience, working with a local plumber while going to school. When Conner graduates, he’ll have the training and experience necessary to enter the workforce right away. The investment I announced this week will give more Maine students the opportunity to have this valuable training and experience.

Since I took office, CTE enrollment has grown by nearly 11 percent, with an almost 300 percent increase in the exploratory programs that allow freshmen and sophomores to a number of different CTE programs. Exposing students to career opportunities at an early age is important, so I’ve included $500,000 in my biennial budget to fund CTE programming for middle school students as well.

CTE programs work. Let’s continue to invest in them, and in our students, and in strengthening our workforce.

This is Governor Janet Mills, and thank you for listening.