Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen spoke today at the Maine Administrators of Career and Technical Education Professional Development Conference at the Somerset Career and Technical Center in Skowhegan.
Below is a greeting letter the Commissioner wrote to conference participants:
Oct. 7, 2011
Dear Maine CTE Conference Participants:
About a month ago, employers from across the state visited the Blaine House in Augusta for a jobs summit.
They didn’t come to the state capital to deliver the message about slow economic growth and associated job reductions that many might have expected. Instead, those employers told us they had job openings, but couldn’t find workers with the skills needed to fill them. Some said they had turned business away because they couldn’t find enough qualified employees to do the work.
The conclusion? It’s not only a jobs deficit we have in Maine. It’s also a skills deficit. In some sectors, we have more available jobs than skilled workers.
Ultimately, it will fall largely on Maine’s education system to correct this phenomenon. And at the jobs summit, I was pleased to discuss one solution already in the works that creates for our students a clearly articulated path from high school to a career.
It’s no surprise that the “Bridge Year” pilot initiative – which you’ll hear about today – is one that relies heavily on career and technical education. The initiative ties together courses at Hermon High School and United Technologies Center in Bangor, and aligns them with an Associate’s degree program at Eastern Maine Community College. Bridge Year students will be able to earn an Associate’s degree within a year of completing high school and have the option of pursuing a related, four-year degree at the University of Maine – with their accrued credits transferring seamlessly.
Bridge Year is further proof that the educators at our state’s career and technical education centers are delivering what we need from our education system.
The students who attend classes at Maine’s CTE centers are engaged in their learning. They find learning there relevant, interesting and interactive. They find that the academic knowledge they learn in high school classes comes alive and makes sense when applied in the CTE classroom.
I’m pleased to join you today, because as we go about improving our education system so all students find learning engaging and all students graduate with the skills needed for college and careers, I know we’ll have a lot to learn from you.
Commissioner of Education