HOULTON, Maine — The Houlton Rotary Club met for its luncheon meeting at Watson Hall on Monday May 20.
Rotarian Matt Donahue hosted the guest speaker Josh McLaughlin who spoke about the educational committee set up by the Southern Aroostook Development Commission. As outgoing president of SADC, McLaughlin wanted to break the SADC Board into committees to discuss topics that he thought were crucial to the future success of businesses in the area.
The education committee met a few times to assess the needs of students graduating from area schools. There are business owners on the committee who have offered to pay for a student’s education in a trade so they can hire them upon graduation.
The committee wanted to focus on the needs of the business community and encourage students to look at local employment possibilities, which may not require a four-year college degree, but could still lead to a decent wage and a career path. The trades are always looking for skilled labor and due to the outward migration of students and the aging population the business community is suffering from a shortage of qualified workers. Often these businesses offer good pay and benefits. Many students don’t seem to know the life skills necessary to maintain a job.
These include knowing how to interview, how to dress, how many hours they will be expected to work each day and how to enter the adult world.
The committee invited local educators to join the group so everyone could work as a team and formulate a plan to change the students’ thinking about the job market. The emphasis in their efforts would be a message to the students that you don’t have to move out of state to get a good paying job.
Immediately, the group decided that a job fair was not the way to go and that a boot camp type model is more effective. It became clear that instead of just focusing on the juniors and seniors that we should actually target the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grades to reach them before they have formed ideas on what to expect in their futures.
There is a need to educate the students and educators on opportunities here in the County. Businesses also need to know how to better market the jobs available.
As a pilot program, the hope is to start with twelve students who are considered to be at high risk and to grow the program in future years. This will be an after school program and it will be designed to build trust and relationships.