2017-09-21 / Editorial

Pulling the rug out from under workers in job training

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

Imagine yourself in this scenario: Laid off from work through no fault of your own, you find yourself unemployed. Opportunities, particularly ones with living wages that support your family, are few and far between, and you quickly learn those good-paying jobs that do exist require skills you didn’t need at your previous job. Those companies might want to hire you, but you just aren’t equipped to meet their needs.

You dip into your savings or collect unemployment for a few weeks as you continue your job search, hoping something will pop up. Eventually, you take yourself to a career center, where you are connected with a job training program to give you the skills you need to obtain reliable work and steady pay. You did what you were supposed to do, you’re improving your employability, and the future looks brighter than it did when you were laid off.

Then, suddenly, you get the news that your classes will be cancelled. Politicians are playing games with funding for your job training program, and you’re on your own. Once again, your prospects are diminished through no fault of your own.

That’s the very real scenario that Mainers across the state may find themselves in as a result of Gov. Paul LePage’s incomprehensible decision to reject $8 million in federal funding earmarked for job training programs in Maine. Those programs are operated by three regional, business-led workforce development boards that provide education, training, career guidance and support to thousands of Mainers every year – particularly laid-off workers, low-income individuals and young adults.

According to news reports, Gov. LePage rejected federal funding after the Trump administration denied his request to combine the three regional workforce boards into one statewide agency. Apparently, the governor was so upset about not getting his way on this administrative issue that he’s willing to punish the men and women throughout our state who have done nothing but try to improve their lives.

The need for job training in Maine is clear. And while no program is perfect, the success of the workforce development boards is evident in the Mainers who have learned job skills and advanced their careers through the offerings of each regional board.

Good-paying jobs are the best way to give Maine families the stability and security they need to live healthy, happy lives. The job training programs offered by these workforce boards are one pathway to prosperity for Mainers on the brink. The state should not pull the rug out from under them as they try to secure a better livelihood for themselves and their families.

There’s still time to make this right. The governor’s plan to unite the boards may very well be a good plan, or it may not be. I hope his administration and the leaders of the three regional workforce boards will work together to determine the best way to provide this critical training to Maine workers. But in the meantime, the state should accept the federal funding that sustains its current offerings. Doing otherwise isn’t only senseless, it’s wrong.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is the owner of Chenette Media LLC, a marketing & public relations firm, works as the marketing coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, and is the president/ CEO of the Saco Bay Center of Civic Engagement, a 501c3 nonprofit service organization. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or www.Facebook.com/JustinChenette.

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