Preparing Maine Students for Rewarding Careers in Diverse Industries

Career and Technical Education programs, or CTEs, equip our young people with skills and with hands-on experiences to secure good-paying jobs and have rewarding, life-long careers. Here in Maine, nearly 10,000 students are enrolled in CTE programs.

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

Well, despite the important role that CTEs play in the lives of Maine’s young people, and building the skilled workforce that we need to strengthen our economy, for decades Maine just did not modernize or expand these workforce training programs or provide them with proper equipment.

Well, when I became governor, I decided to change that. I have always been a believer in the power of our CTE systems to provide people with real world skills. 

In fact, nearly ten years ago when I was Attorney General, I settled a case with Bath Fitter, and I used funds from that settlement to begin plumbing programs, new programs at four different Maine high schools. And when I became Governor, I continued to make investments in our CTE system so that it can serve more students. Two years ago, as part of my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, approved by the legislature, we invested $20 million of federal funds in Maine’s CTEs. First time in decades.

My administration distributed $4.5 million of that investment to the 23 CTEs across Maine so they could purchase and upgrade equipment to prepare students for the high-skilled, in-demand industries that dominate our current economy.

Earlier this year, we distributed another $15 million of that investment to four other Maine CTEs to expand hands on, real word training for our students in plumbing, electrical, building construction, culinary arts, hospitality, EMT programs, welding programs, and others.

This week, I visited Northern Penobscot Tech in Lincoln, Maine to see how they used Jobs Plan funding to expand their welding shop and welding program, purchasing new welding booths, welders, and ventilators. The expansion will allow Northern Penobscot Tech to enroll more students in its welding program, allowing many of those students to receive industry accreditation, earn college credit, and graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the job market or in higher ed. According to the Department of Labor, the average wage for an experienced welder is more than $52,000 a year.

For the students at Northern Penobscot Tech, a welding certification charts a path toward real success, not just financial success alone, but rewarding careers in diverse industries. Someone who has mastered the ability to merge metals and other materials and to create strong, functional structures will always be in high demand.

I want students of any age to be able to learn skills like that, and to earn the credits, credentials, certifications, or college degrees they need to succeed. 

Whether in outdoor rec, registered medical assistant, graphic design, EMS, culinary arts, auto technicians, these are all available to young people in our state. 

We still have more work to do, but we are making important progress, and since 2019, when I took office, CTE enrollment has grown by almost 11 percent. Since 2021, the number of adults in Maine with a credential, including an industry certification, in Maine has increased by two percent to 55 percent of all adults, and that’s higher than the national average. And, since 2022, the number of newly registered apprentices has nearly doubled. 

That’s a good sign, but look, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. That’s why workforce training programs are so important — modeling a path for young men and young women to a rewarding, life-long career right here in Maine. That’s good for our young people, for our students, and it’s good for our economy.

My Administration will keep doing all we can to support career and technical education programs like the one I visited at Northern Penobscot Tech in Lincoln. I want our students to be prepared to take important, meaningful careers here in Maine.

This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.