The burgeoning coastal marine economy came into the spotlight on Tuesday, Sept. 29 during a stop in Lincoln County on Speaker Mark Eves’ statewide jobs tour.
Eves joined a bipartisan delegation of local lawmakers, including Reps. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle and Stephanie Hawke, R-Boothbay Harbor, as well as Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, for a tour of the leading ocean research facility Bigelow labs and the country’s oldest boatbuilder Hodgdon Yachts.
“The boatbuilders we met with today are looking for highly skilled workers who who can be trained to work in the burgeoning boat businesses,” said Eves, D-North Berwick. “By investing in our workers and students, we are helping to grow good jobs and strong wages in our state.”
Hodgdon Yachts has approximately 130 employees. Business leaders urged lawmakers to invest in training for workers. They said the workforce for skilled boat builders in the state would be growing by up to 25 percent of the current labor force of 6,000.
“We heard loud and clear about the strong need for a skilled workforce,” said Devin. “We know investing in our students and workers is key to our future growth. We have a growing industry, looking to hire highly skilled people who can work with their hands.”
At Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, lawmakers heard first hand from scientists who are studying the ocean microbes, algae and coastal reefs to help protect the natural resources and support economic development.
“At multiple levels we heard how jobs were created by innovation and greater investment in R&D,” said Johnson. “Lincoln County has great businesses and potential jobs that more people need to know about.”
Hawke said she was surprised to learn how many jobs are available right now in Maine, but are not being filled because of a lack of qualified applicants.
“We need to do much better at matching our workforce skill sets to the needs of our employers,” Hawke said. “We need to get the word out much more effectively about the hundreds of well-paying jobs that are going unfilled."
Lawmakers took a tour on an oyster boat with Pemaquid Oysters and held a roundtable discussion with more than a dozen industry experts on the marine economy at the Darling Center.
Eves launched the jobs tour in January to spotlight the need for more jobs and better wages in the state. Maine’s economy lags behind the nation, with a significant jobs gap and stagnating wages.
Lawmakers have met with employers, workers, and community leaders across the state in York, Aroostook, Kennebec, Somerset, Waldo and Oxford counties.
The meetings prompted lawmakers to create the Put ME to Work program this session to partner with employers to train workers across the state for good paying-jobs in growing industries, such as logging, agriculture, health care and manufacturing.