Moving our economy forward begins with our greatest asset – our hard-working, resilient people. Robust workforce development that helps workers get the education and training to compete in the 21st Century is the key to creating and sustaining good jobs.
I recently had the pleasure to welcome U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta to see some of the remarkable programs that are providing new opportunities for our people and strengthening our businesses.
Our tour began in Bangor, where we visited the Penobscot Job Corps and were joined by leaders of Loring Job Corps in Aroostook County. Job Corps provides youth from disadvantaged backgrounds with hands-on career technical training in high-growth industries. Penobscot Job Corps and Loring Job Corps currently enroll more than 350 students combined.
I’m very proud of the fact that Maine’s two Job Corps Centers rank among the very best in the nation. During our tour of Penobscot Job Corps, we saw the welding program, the medical assistant training, the culinary arts class, and the carpentry program -- training opportunities that are making a real difference and ensuring that young people have the skills that they need to obtain good jobs.
The value of Job Corps was summed up in a meeting we had with a group of welding students. When we asked them if they enjoyed what they were doing, one young woman affirmatively replied, “I wasn’t passionate about anything until I found welding.” Her enthusiasm for her newly acquired skill and her bright career prospects have put her squarely on the path to a promising future.
Secretary Acosta, commenting on the value of the Job Corps program, noted that “more than 80 percent of the graduates of the Penobscot Job Corp are getting jobs, and they’re getting jobs right away, and that’s wonderful.”
After our visit to Penobscot Job Corps, Secretary Acosta and I travelled to Pittsfield to tour the Cianbro Institute, a remarkable initiative by that great Maine construction company to develop a highly skilled workforce. Cianbro has approximately 4,000 employees working in 40 states, including 1,350 in Maine.
The Cianbro Institute, which was established in 2007, recently relocated into a remodeled building in Pittsfield after outgrowing its original facilities. The Institute serves Cianbro employees who wish to improve and develop their skills, and it trains new team members to prepare them to enter the construction industry. It has fully-equipped classrooms, office spaces for instructors, areas for larger educational gatherings, and a skilled-trades multi-functional room to conduct a variety of hands-on educational sessions.
Since the grand opening of the new facility in August 2017, the Institute has provided 53,000 hours of education and development time within 32 different programs and given valuable training to more than 1,000 people.
The Cianbro Institute also has a state-of-the-art wellness center, which underscores the company’s focus of the health and well-being of its workers. In fact, as Secretary Acosta and I toured the various classrooms, we were impressed to see that individuals who were on their very first day at Cianbro began by learning about safety and the importance of maintaining a safe work environment.
We also met with people who have been employed by Cianbro for more than 20 years who were learning new skills. That’s the kind of lifelong improvement that Maine needs to be competitive. Cianbro is justifiably proud, not only of its extraordinary safety record, but also of the fact that so many employees have come through the Institute since the new center opened last August.
In addition to touring the Penobscot Job Corps and the Cianbro Institute, the day gave me the opportunity to tell Secretary Acosta about the outstanding partnerships between Maine’s community colleges and local businesses to develop tomorrow’s skilled workforce. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Acosta to support these types of workforce training programs that create opportunities for the people of our country.