AUGUSTA – The Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Mathematics & Science Alliance, and Science is US released a set of policy recommendations to help bolster the state’s STEM education and workforce and to encourage policymakers to reprioritize science and engineering. The policies complement and support the Maine Economic Development Strategy and its focus on talent and innovation as a pathway to the state’s economic development and growth.
Recent data shows that while STEM sector jobs are outpacing non-STEM fields nationally, Maine lags in developing a workforce for science and engineering jobs. Data also shows that Maine’s research and development investment is less than 1 percent of GDP, compared to a regional average of about 4%. To bridge these gaps, policies that invest in science and engineering from early education to workforce should be implemented.
Key policy recommendations for Maine include:
- Stronger investment in PK-12 mathematics and science education, including supporting educator professional development in the field of STEM K-12 education.
- Increased investment in Afterschool STEM Programs similar to those in Vermont and Pennsylvania.
- More interdisciplinary programs and applied research programs to broaden PK-20 students’ skillsets and integrate STEM into other subject areas to reflect the realities of how and where STEM is found in the real world.
- Greater access to broadband internet in the state for students and the workforce.
- Consideration of greater investments in STEM programs at schools throughout the state—such as STEM certificates, STEM-focused schools, maker spaces, and partnerships between local STEM businesses and schools.
- Expanded public early college—especially in STEM fields—to diversify the curricular options for high school students and put them on track to greater success in college and career.
- More inclusive thinking for traditional industries as STEM jobs of the future and investment in the technology systems to advance the traditional Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Marine/Shipbuilding/Manufacturing economic sectors as well as future industries, such as Offshore Wind Energy.
- Expanded investments in the Maine Economic Improvement Fund that support R&D within the University of Maine System and especially at UMaine – a land, sea and space grant institution that in 2022 earned R1 Carnegie Classification, putting it among the top-tier of the nation’s research universities.
- Leveraging and providing greater support for Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) loans for specific workforce training programs.
- Industry specific workforce development councils that focus on the future of specific industries and help foster resiliency and sustainable systems for industries into the future.
The policy recommendations were developed by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Science is US, and government, industry, and academic leaders in the state as part of a science and engineering workforce roundtable series over the last year. The guidelines aim to inform key policy decisions in the state to strengthen Maine’s investment in science and engineering. The full policy guidelines can be found here.
“The future of Maine’s STEM workforce is rapidly evolving, as are the skills the youth of today will need to be successful in that workforce. Maine’s education sector is working hard to integrate learning those transferable skills into classroom experiences today for youth. This is a new and challenging role for K-12 educators today and they need the supports, materials, training and connections to community STEM leaders to make STEM workforce readiness a reality,” said Ruth Kermish-Allen, Ph.D., executive director, Maine Mathematics & Science Alliance.
“STEM jobs provide significant opportunity to individuals, families and communities—and are the cornerstone of economic growth and innovation in Maine. These policy guidelines are intended to help ensure that Maine’s workforce is positioned to capitalize on the future growth STEM can provide,” said Rachel Kerestes, executive director, Science is US.
“As state policy makers look to address multiple issues that are key to growing Maine’s economy and workforce, further investments in R&D and STEM education are important priority areas,” said Maine State Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dana Connors. “The recommendations in this report provide helpful direction and guidance for Maine to advance STEM education and a stronger workforce to stay competitive regionally, nationally, and in the global economy.”
“STEM education and workforce preparation have never been more important to Maine’s future and the state has never been better positioned to engage students at all stages in high-impact, hands-on STEM learning and skill development that prepares them and our economy for success,” said University of Maine President and University of Maine System Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “We look forward to partnering with Maine’s PK–12 schools, industry and policymakers to advance these comprehensive policy recommendations—which leverage both generous STEM-related investment in our public universities by the Harold Alfond Foundation and the recent designation of UMaine as an R1 top-tier research university—to produce the next generation of world-class leaders, innovators and problem solvers.”
For more information, please contact:
Rachel Kerestes, Science is US
Dana Connors, Maine State Chamber of Commerce
Ruth Kermish-Allen, Ph.D., Maine Mathematics & Science Alliance
Dan Demeritt, University of Maine
(207) 441-6962 (mobile)