Maine is in the midst of a major workforce crisis, one stemming from multiple challenges. One factor is the diminishing size of our labor force. We currently maintain a 3:1 ratio of working age to senior citizens, which is projected to drop to nearly 2:1 by 2032. This means that we have many more people approaching retirement age than we have those preparing to enter the workforce. A second factor is a skills challenge: simply put, we need to see more people following up their high school diplomas with college degrees and credentials qualifying them to fill the jobs that are coming open. Finally, a third challenge, and in some ways the most pressing, is the looming nursing shortage. Our aging population and our decreasing numbers of high school graduates, together with an entire generation of nurses on the verge of retirement, add up to 3,200 or more unfilled jobs in nursing by 2025.
Under Question 4 in the November 6th election, UMPI will receive $4.5 million, all of which is specifically designated for expanding or developing programs that meet our workforce needs here in the County and beyond. This includes major renovations in both Wieden and Folsom Halls, improving classroom, lab, and clinical spaces to grow enrollments in the Nursing program we’re partnering with UMFK to bring to UMPI, as well as our Medical Lab Technology, Physical Therapist Assistant and Exercise Science program. In addition, this funding will complement plans already in motion for the construction of the research-grade Zillman Family Greenhouse, a cornerstone of our new Agricultural Science program. These investments will allow us to double the number of students we can enroll in these programs and provide Aroostook County and Maine with the professionals we need in the future. Just as importantly, we’ll be ensuring our graduates with competitive jobs and salaries for years to come.
Together with our determination to make a college education affordable to all by our Free For Four program, which guarantees no out-of-pocket tuition and fee expenses to eligible Maine families, we can develop the programs that we need and ensure we are providing the skills and experiences necessary for immediate employment in healthcare, agriculture, and other critical workforce areas.
Voting is among our most cherished rights of American citizenship. As university community members, you have the right to vote or not, and if you do, to vote however you wish. Your voting choices will not impact your employment or opportunities in any way.
But these workforce crises are upon us today, and will only worsen unless we act to address them now. With your help, we can do just that, and ensure a healthy Aroostook County that meets the needs of us all well into the future. Please vote Yes on Question 4 on November 6, and help others to understand that this bond is not just about UMPI—it’s about all of us.