The jobs of Maine’s future, the students of Maine’s present

John Dorrer, long of the Maine Department of Labor, discussed what’s become an increasingly well-studied skills gap existing in the labor market during this week’s meeting of the University of Maine System board of trustees in Portland.

My colleague, Matt Wickenheiser, covered a presentation Dorrer gave on the topic about a month ago, and the issue of how today’s education is preparing Maine students for tomorrow’s jobs is due to come up again Thursday morning.

Maine State Economist Amanda Rector will deliver the morning keynote address during the early portion of the Maine Principals’ Association conference in Portland. Her talk is titled: “Education and the Future of Maine’s Workforce.”

With this conversation fresh and timely with the MPA presentation less than 24 hours away, I thought I’d bring out some numbers Dorrer showed system trustees on Monday that I found interesting.

First, more employed Mainers are college graduates than ever before, at least according to the most recent figures he used. While less than 21 percent of Maine job-holders had bachelor’s degrees in 1990, by 2009 nearly 30 percent had that four-year post secondary diploma — or more.

If there are fewer jobs to go around and college graduates are taking up a higher percentage of the jobs there are, that would seem to me to compound in two directions the difficulty finding work for folks with high school diplomas or less.

That said, Maine has among the oldest work forces in the country, and when the Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the job market is due to get a lot of openings — provided job seekers have the skills to fill them.

Dorrer told trustees 48.3 percent of Maine’s work force is comprised of workers older than 45 years old, and 22.6 percent are older than 55.

The most posted job openings in the state for post secondary graduates? Nurses.

Tallying up Internet job postings requiring some kind of higher education degree, Dorrer showed the board what employers have been looking for over the first nine months of 2011.

  1. Registered nurses, 742 job postings
  2. Sales representatives (except technical and scientific products), 559
  3. Mechanical engineers, 456
  4. General and operations managers, 358
  5. Computer programmers, 246
  6. Information technology project managers, 224
  7. Computer software engineers, 207
  8. Computer systems analysts, 200
  9. Physicians and surgeons, 196
  10. Accountants, 190
  11. Credit analysts, 177
  12. Office managers and administrative support workers, 144
  13. Physical therapists, 141

The certifications in the greatest demand over that same time period and body of research?

  1. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), 316 postings
  2. Allied Health Certificate, 209
  3. Basic Cardiac Life Support Certification, 207
  4. Professional Engineer, 142
  5. Project Management Certification, 105
  6. Nurse practitioner, 81
  7. Advanced Cardiac Life Support Certification, 70
  8. Certified Nursing Assistant, 65
  9. Six Sigma (business management methodology), 62
  10. Certified Public Accountant, 60
  11. Certified teacher, 50
  12. Licensed Master’s Social Worker, 43
  13. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), 43

They’re interesting numbers to look at for somebody about ready to enter college or deciding what retraining programs to consider. (John Dorrer below)

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.