AUGUSTA – On Wednesday evening, legislation sponsored by Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford to invest in Maine’s Career and Technical Education Center infrastructure, LD 144, “An Act To Fund Capital Improvements to Career and Technical Education Centers and Regions To Bolster Maine’s Future Workforce” passed in the House. The bill passed unanimously “under the hammer,” with support across party lines.
Maine’s public education system has 28 CTE schools that provide Maine students with training for careers in fields like welding, nursing, computer programming, heating and cooling systems, building trades, early childhood education, automotive technology, forestry and culinary arts. LD 144 would provide Maine CTE schools with funding for much-needed equipment so Maine’s workforce has access to the tools they need to learn. The bill authorizes the issuance and use of up to $20 million in Maine Governmental Facilities Authority securities for career and technical education centers.
In 2020, Speaker Fecteau met with CTE centers across the state to assess their capital needs. “It became clear that CTE centers are in severe need of investment. Oxford Hills Technical School in Norway is looking to add a much-needed welding program, which means investing roughly $500,000 in equipment and updating a space to suit the program’s needs. Region Two School in Houlton needs updated equipment for its forestry program, including a processor, forwarder, and a skidder. The forest products sector is important to rural Maine’s economy, and this equipment, crucial to training students for today’s job, will cost more than $1.8 million,” he said.
The last time Maine invested in upgrades to CTE program equipment was in 1998, when a $5 million dollar bond allowed capital improvements. At that time, Speaker Fecteau was only six years old.
“In Maine, we have the schools, the dedicated educators and driven students. But, in order to meet the needs of our students and our economy, we need to ensure the equipment and infrastructure at these locations are maintained, repaired and replaced. If we want the next generation of Mainers in the trades to have access to good-paying jobs that we know there will be need for, we need to invest in equipment and capital improvements today,” said Speaker Fecteau. “Many of the careers that our CTEs specialize in provide good-paying jobs to working people. Welders, HVAC installers, machinists, and licensed practical nurses all have median incomes over $40,000. This investment in our CTE system is not merely an investment in equipment, it will serve as a catalyst for economic activity.”
According to the Maine Department of Labor, Maine will need nearly 200 welders, 287 electricians, 700 carpenters, and over 900 nurses by 2028.