AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The nation's unemployment rate has dropped to seven point eight percent, but that means there are still a lot of people looking for jobs. Maine's manufacturing businesses say they have job openings -- and will have more in years to come-- but need better trained people to fill them.
Manufacturers say they're teaming up with the LePage Administration to push for more and better job training and workforce development. They say manufacturing jobs pay well, but require higher level skills than they once did. And both the manufacturers and Maine Department of Labor say current and students will need to upgrade their skills and knowledge to be able to fill those jobs.
To help that skills upgrade, The Department of Economic and Community Development says its working to find money to help pay for specific training. They says the Maine Community Colleges are trying to work more closely with the manufacturers to develop programs that teach the needed skills and ideas. Both government and industry say students and workers will need to take advantage of those programs to be ready for the jobs now and in the future.
Bruce Tisdale, owner and president of Mountain Machine Works in Auburn, says his company has always had a problem finding enough people with the high skill level they require. Tisdale quoted a favorite saying:" If you work with your hands ,you're a skilled laborer. If you work with your hands and your head you're a craftsman. If you work with your hands and your head and your heart you're an artist. We need artists in our field. We need a lot of craftsmen throughout the state."
The Maine Department of Labor says the state currently has about 1,800 manufacturing businesses, which employ 50,000 people. In 1980, Maine had 100,000 manufacturing jobs. The DOL says many of the lost jobs came from the elimination of the state's shoe and textile industries, and the dramatic changes in the paper industry trough about through automation. The 2008-09 economic collapse also cost about 9,000 manufacturing jobs in Maine, according to the DOL.