Governor’s Address: Let’s Get Maine Working
Hello. This is Governor Paul LePage.
It’s the number one debate on the national front, and no I’m not talking about Obamacare. While we must find a solution to our health care crisis, what Americans and Mainers are most concerned with is the uncertainty of our economy – in short, jobs or lack thereof. But is there really a shortage of jobs?
Forbes recently noted that while hiring remains slow, nearly 40 percent of businesses are trying to grow. Our economy is slow to recovery due to the fact that these companies can’t find the right people for the job.
For the past few weeks, I’ve hosted workshops in Brunswick, Springvale, and Presque Isle with our leaders in the business community. I have been listening and what they are telling me is that they have jobs, but need skilled workers.
This is not only a problem here in Maine, but nationally too. The demand for the right skills sought by employers is high while the supply of those workers is low. It’s simply a case of supply/demand which isn’t in sync right now and as a result our economy is struggling.
The road to recovering our economy will require change in attitude and policies. I have just released a business survey asking Maine’s job creators to tell us what government can do to help. So far, nearly 400 companies have requested the survey and more than 250 responses have been submitted. This week, I glanced at some of the results. Three of the top challenges for companies include health care costs, managing energy costs and access to trained workers.
My administration has challenged the status quo from day one saying that we must reset Maine’s educational system and reduce energy costs in order for us to be competitive and prosperous. I look forward to receiving more input from our job creators and introducing legislation that will improve education and lower energy prices. We must have the political will to do what is right for all Mainers.
Just this week, we learned that the United States is failing to close the gap in education achievement. A Harvard study shows that the U.S. now ranks 25th out of 49 countries. This data confirms that we are losing ground to the leaders of the industrialized world, which will ultimately kill our economy.
The same report indicates that Maine is next to last in student achievement compared to 40 other states. This further reiterates why my administration is standing up against the status quo of union bosses, superintendents and Principals' Association. The status quo is not putting our students or our teachers first and only a commitment to change will improve results. It is critical Maine offers more opportunities in the form of school choice and teacher development and training.
For far too long there has been a significant push for students to attend a 4-year college. While post-secondary education does lead to higher wages we are missing the mark when it comes to promoting the jobs of the 21st century.
Maine is consistently lower than the national average in unemployment, but we can get more Mainers working if we better understand where the openings are. I recently spent a day with leaders from the Manufacturing sector and it’s clear: the jobs are available. This industry is central to the identity of our state and rebuilding our economy.
The Department of Economic and Community Development is working on a campaign to promote manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing isn’t a dirty word and it’s our goal to clean up its image because good-paying jobs are on the line.
We have about 51 thousand manufacturing jobs in Maine that paid $2.5 billion in wages last year. These aren’t the mill jobs of the past. Instead these are positions being driven by new technology. These companies are seeking people with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, better known as STEM, skills. They want innovators and critical thinkers to provide solutions for their companies. And the average pay is around $50 thousand.
The industries image can be revitalized through educating the public and our students about what these jobs are all about. There’s an array of opportunity out there from designing of drumsticks and I pod cases to pellet production and the making of medical devices. Manufacturing isn’t dead it just needs a makeover.
We can talk about jobs until we’re blue in the face, but what we need from our elected leaders is reform that will set us in a new direction. Lowering health care and energy costs are necessary and we must demand more out of our education system. These are priorities that will lead to a prosperous Maine and my administration has the plan to make good on these promises.
Thanks for listening this week. Ann and I hope you have a great weekend.