Leaders see education as key to future growth

11 years ago

Leaders see education as key to future growth


Staff photo/Kathy McCarty

    THE SPIRIT OF AROOSTOOK award was presented to Ginny Joles for her ongoing efforts to support and promote growth in The County. Pictured from left are: LEAD Executive Director Ryan Pelletier, Joles and  LEAD Past President Jon McLaughlin. The annual APP/LEAD breakfast was held at UMPI on Oct. 31.

By Kathy McCarty
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — Teamwork, accomplishments and what seems to be a winning strategy for the Education to Industry initiative highlighted the Aroostook Partnership for Progress/LEADers Encouraging Aroostook Development annual meeting, held Thursday morning at the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Campus Center.
    Attendees included about 80 LEAD members, APP investors, legislators and invited guests.
    First to speak at the annual event was LEAD Executive Director Ryan Pelletier, who said his goal was to increase membership.
    “I’m happy to report we’ve gained more than 40 new members this year, including three municipalities,” said Pelletier.
    Pelletier discussed various events LEAD members continue to support and promote, including Aroostook Day at the Legislature and weekly legislative telephone conference calls that he said were “unique to the state of Maine.”
    LEAD Past President Jon McLaughlin joined Pelletier in presenting the Spirit of Aroostook Award to LEAD member Ginny Joles. Joles, who retired from Maine Public Service earlier this year, has served the community in many capacities, as one of the founding members of the APP board of directors, former LEAD president, former Presque Isle Rotary president and more.
    “LEAD is a strong business member organization for Aroostook County. We were able to highlight some of our initiatives this past year and honor the hard work of our volunteer board members,” said Pelletier. “LEAD is planning for next year’s activities now. We look forward to serving our current members and welcoming new members in 2014.”
    Robert Dorsey, APP president, offered an overview of the organization’s achievements for the past year, among them: helping businesses convert to alternative energy sources and the promotion of biomass, growing the investor ranks by nearly 10 new members and detailed progress made in the Mobilize Northern Maine process.
    MNM is a strategic planning effort being utilized by APP and Northern Maine Development Commission to help organize and coordinate economic development efforts. Focus areas include: forestry, manufacturing, renewable energy and diversified agriculture.
    “From my perspective, Mobilize Northern Maine is working. Our mission is to grow The County economy and create jobs,” said Dorsey.
    “I want to take some time to thank the more than 100 working group and tiger team members for their time and effort,” said Dorsey. “It takes teamwork to make a difference, and we are making a difference.”
    Dorsey also discussed APP’s Education to Industry initiative. For more than a year, businesspeople, educators and others have been developing a strategy to “better link the student of today with the jobs of tomorrow.” The ultimate goal of the program is to grow the 18- to 44-year-old workforce in Aroostook.
    University of Maine System Chancellor James Page, who served as guest speaker, also targeted the declining number of workers in that age group. He said Aroostook is no different from the rest of Maine, adding the UMS is working to address the problem.
    “The bond (Question 2 on Tuesday’s ballot which would provide $15 million for UMS upgrades for the seven campuses) would put millions on the street with construction, etc. It would provide upgrades and advanced educational opportunities for the jobs that are there — nursing, information technology. They exist now, here and elsewhere in the state,” said Page.
    “How do we, in our partnerships, form a continuous communication system to see what your needs are as an employer or business,” he asked.
    Page said to address the challenges of having a skilled workforce, UMS leaders have concluded there is a need to pull people back into higher education to complete their degrees.
    “There are somewhere between 190,000 and 230,000 Mainers who started college but never earned a degree, according to the University of Maine System,” said Page, noting college officials want some of those people to finish what they started.
    Page referenced a recent report submitted by a team co-led by UMPI President Linda Schott, indicating “the need to link higher education to career and economic development has never been stronger. The public and individual students expect a return on their investment in higher education, and that return must translate into a quality education and a good job upon graduation.”
    Work being done by APP and LEAD in linking student achievement with potential jobs also received high praise from Page.
    “The rest of the state needs to be doing what you have accomplished here,” said Page. “Congratulations on the steps you are taking here. Ten years from now I’d like to stand here going ‘yes, we did it.’”