Project charge

“Create an initiative that will both address the comprehensive view of education, taking into account and exploring the inter-relations among the key pressure points — from early childhood to higher education — and help provide a comprehensive remedy that will address Maine’s workforce needs and chronically low salaries.”

Summary of the Charge

By Sue McCullough

The Charge:

  • To create an Initiative that will inspire and engage more kids to continue their education to meet the needs of a global economy … it will take the entire village (state).
  • To examine the relationship of education at various “pressure” points, K-16, to the development of Maine’s workforce and recommend ways in which to invest in the person comprehensively to address workforce needs.

How do we better educate/train folks that have no formal education beyond high school so that they will have the skills necessary to fulfill existing and anticipated jobs in Maine?

To create an initiative that addresses the gaps between our labor needs (jobs) and individuals with educational backgrounds necessary for supporting them. The pressure points provided are a lack of growth in 4th grade reading scores (a measure indicating our lack of growth long term – for “filling the pipeline”) and the lack of individuals with required educational/skilled backgrounds needed to fill today’s available jobs.

The charge relays that Maine has all the “right” stats to be successful (e.g. 4th grade reading scores) but the results on paper are not delivering real life results for the people of Maine (e.g. lowest post-secondary degree attainment and lowest per capita income); therefore, my interpretation of the charge is to innovatively find a way to provide a link to generate collaboration between the various resources available to schools/students and employers/employees.

Official Charge

From the Maine Development Foundation to Leadership Maine – Tau ClassBlue Team (2011-12)

Task

What initiative can you create that will address the comprehensive view of education at these pressure points — from early childhood to higher education to improve Maine’s workforce and increase personal incomes? How are these things related or un-related, and is there a way to invest in the person comprehensively to address our workforce needs?

Background

Maine employers rank our work force as [one of the] top assets that support economic growth. Forty-six percent of employers say that our loyal/skilled workforce ranks with quality of life as a unique attractive asset. We are creative & entrepreneurial, we are civic-minded and we care about our neighbors and communities. Employers recognize that these are not just the characteristics of good citizens, but good workers.

Although our people are currently considered a strong asset by employers, there are some troubling signs that our workforce is not as prepared as it needs to be when you combine this issue with our aging population.

Education

First, a strong educational foundation is essential to success, and 4th grade reading scores are a measure of success because they can measure not just the effectiveness of earlier investments in early childhood education but also predict future student success and public costs (special education, work place productivity and criminal justice, etc). Maine has maintained proficient 4th grade reading scores at about 36%, slightly higher than national results, but has made no progress on this indicator over time.

On the other end of the spectrum, Maine’s economy needs more workers with higher education degrees. The knowledge-based economy requires a highly educated workforce, and educational attainment has a direct correlation to the earnings potential of Maine people. Businesses need educated people, and educated people simply earn more.

Unfortunately, Maine has the lowest post-secondary degree attainment in New England and the lowest per-capita income.

Economic context

Our early childhood education efforts don’t seem to be doing the job of effectively preparing Maine kids for the jobs of our future. In addition, Maine has 250,000 work-age adults with only a high school diploma, and only 7% of these adults were enrolled in post-secondary education in 2005. There are over 200,000 adults statewide who have some college experience but never received a degree. These numbers represent a significant portion of the Maine population that has the potential to fill more of our workforce needs, but may not be prepared to do so by early childhood education or higher education — leaving employers at a disadvantage.

Resources

• Maine Children’s Growth Council (www.mainecgc.org)
• Maine Employer’s Initiative (www.mdf.org)
• Maine Department of Labor (http://www.nnaine.govilabor/Imis/)
• Prepare Maine (www.preparemaine.org)
• Maine Compact for Higher Education (www.collegeforme.com)
• Educare Central Maine (www.educarecentralmaine.org)

Making Maine Work

Goals for education

From: Making Maine Work: Critical Investments for the Maine Economy (PDF) by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Development Foundation. [News report]

Create an integrated state approach to education

In the current legislative process, the budget for pre-kindergarten programs, K-12, the community colleges, the University System, and adult education, are all treated separately. The result is that historic precedent, rather than current need, dictates the relative spending priority of each area.

In addition, because these systems operate independently of each other, students fall between the cracks — between high school and college, between community college and university, between university and employer.

The governor must prepare a global budget covering all educational sectors, and submit an annual state of education report, as a start to bringing the pieces together. This global budget should also include explicit student-centered outcomes at all levels of the “system” — from early childhood development through workforce training. Investments should be made and programs evaluated based on achievement of these outcomes. For example, one outcome might be that “by 2020, 95% of freshmen will graduate from high school in four years, and 80% of these graduates will enter post secondary education.” Outcomes should be aimed at achieving the overall goal.

The integrated approach must particularly address the problem of the young people who grow up in poverty, drop out of high school, and end up as adults without the skills to be productive members of society.

As part of the report, the governor must include a “blueprint for independence” that sets forth a strategy for helping young people at risk gain the took necessary to succeed in life.

Support lifelong learning among all age groups.

Even if every student now in high school went on to get a PhD, Maine would still lag behind its competitors in the level of education of its workforce in 2020. The reason is that most of our 2020 workforce is currently already out of school.

The University, Community College, and business sectors need to elevate their level of collaboration to bring higher education programs into the workplace and community. The redevelopment of the former base in Brunswick provides the opportunity to create such a model.

The state must make the new Maine Center for Innovation at the redeveloped base in Brunswick a state-of-the-art model for continuing education. It should bring programs in engineering, information technology, and composite materials to businesses and workers at or near to their places of work in Greater Portland and Lewiston-Auburn. This exciting collaboration of high schools, community colleges, university campuses, and private businesses should be replicated throughout Maine.

New models for enhancing life-long learning need our support. One successful approach is the College Transitions program, which is delivered through Maine’s local adult education centers. This three-year-old program prepares adults to transition to college by providing counseling support and development courses at low or no cost. Approximately 1,300 adults are currently enrolled in this comprehensive program, 25% of whom have already transitioned to college. A second program is the Maine Employers’ Initiative, which works with employers to support their employees in furthering their education. After one year, more than 270 Maine workers have gone back to college.

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