Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Maine's employment future

If you picked up this morning’s Portland Press Herald, and read Noel K. Gallagher’s article about Maine’s future employment landscape, you would be forgiven if you decided to pack up the family and move them somewhere with a much sunnier economic outlook. If this pessimistic perspective was the entire story, then we all might be better served by pulling up roots and heading elsewhere. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Gallagher is operating merely on the information provided by Maine’s Department of Labor, reporting what’s been handed to him. A bit more investigative work might have helped him write a more balanced story. But journalistic vigor has been lacking at the Press Herald for quite some time. [I stand corrected by an anonymous comment; Mr. Gallagher should be Ms. Gallagher. I made an incorrect assumption, and got called on it.-JB]

While the statistical information provided by the MDOL report, “Maine Employment Outlook to 2016” shows the loss of jobs paying high wages, like manufacturing, replacing them with lower wage service sector jobs, it neglects an important component that gives me considerable hope for the future—middle skills.

Back in March, I worked on developing a communiqué (and an Op-Ed) that talked about the need and importance of providing access to training that would prepare Maine’s workforce for jobs that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Market Statistics says will comprise over 60 percent of the jobs created during the next 10 years. These jobs, which pay living wages, are available, and often lack a labor pipeline necessary to keep them filled.

Additionally, while some of these jobs highlighted by groups like The Workforce Alliance and their Skills 2 Compete initiative may not be as abundant in Maine, with leadership and guidance coming from those both elected, or appointed, our state could be moving in a direction that it should have been trending a decade ago.

To be filed under causes of optimism, The Daily, Mainebiz’s noon email news blast references a report indicating that 9,000+ jobs could be created in Maine, tied to a “green economic recovery plan.”

The report, released nationally by the Center for American Progress (and in Maine by the Natural Resources Council of Maine) notes that an investment of $100 billion nationwide for “green infrastructure” would create 2 million jobs nationwide, including 9,132 in Maine.

The $100 billion would come in part from rolling back taxes and subsidies offered to oil and gas companies, as well as proceeds coming from auctions of carbon offsets under a greenhouse cap-and-trade program.

The report has specific details for each state, including Maine. Many of these jobs would be in the same areas where Mainers already have experience; constructing a wind farm creates the need for sheet metal workers, machinists and truck drivers. Making buildings more energy efficient requires roofers, insulators, building envelope technicians, etc.

While there might be some disagreement about the actual number of jobs, I think it’s important to emphasize that there are opportunities for Maine to move forward, and hold to a much more optimistic vision of the future, than offered by the cited Press Herald article.


Anonymous said...

You wrote that the Press Herald was"operating merely on the information provided to him by Maine’s Department of Labor." Isn't that exactly what MaineBiz did when it reported on the 9,000 jobs? Or is that OK when it's being optimistic?

By the way, Noel is a woman. I understand how you can make the error. But when you criticize a reporter's investigative chops, you really ought to get her gender correct.

bizdirector said...

I assumed incorrectly that Noel=male name, ala the more famous Gallagher from Oasis fame--my bad!

My dig was really aimed more at the PPH, than Gallagher. I imagine there really isn't any reason to do much more than "dialing it in" at a dying newspaper.

The demise of Maine's former "newspaper of record" has been well documented elsewhere.

BTW, while I try to be as accurate as possible via Working in Maine, my focus is more on disseminating information that I think is pertinent to workforce issues. I don't have the time to do the type of investigative work that a journalist ought to be doing, although as a former freelancer, I do understand what journalistic standards are (were).

As for Mainebiz, they were also reporting information (but not from MDOL; it was the report from the Center for American Progress).