March 28, 2018
PORTLAND, ME – During events in Portland today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) focused on workforce development, expanding the pool of skilled workers, and growing Maine’s economy. In the morning, he hosted a discussion on career and technical education (CTE) at Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) in Portland where he met with students, employers, and CTE school administrators and staff from around the state to discuss ways to provide Maine students with a high-quality education and support employers seeking a skilled workforce. Following the CTE discussion, Senator King attended the Maine Restaurant and Lodging Expo to meet with food service and lodging professionals from around the state and discuss ways to bolster the workforce and support the industries during peak tourism seasons.
“Everywhere I go in Maine – from Kittery to Madawaska – I hear the same thing from employers: We need qualified workers,” Senator King said. “That’s why encouraging career and technical education for Maine students is so important. By providing young people with the tools they need to build a successful career, we can help employ a new generation of Maine people and provide businesses with dedicated, highly-skilled workers. Students at CTE schools are given amazing opportunities to unleash their potential and discover new interests and skills, from the culinary arts to steel welding and everything in between.”
Senator King has made workforce development one of his top priorities and outlined strategies to modernize and expand Maine’s workforce in the economic agenda he introduced in April 2017. Senator King supported the recent omnibus spending bill, passed last week, which includes a $75 million increase for the Perkins CTE state grant and a $15 million increase in funding for the Jobs Corps. The Administration had proposed a $407 million cut for Fiscal Year 2019 and last year proposed across-the-board cuts to enrollment at Job Corps centers. Senator King joined a letter to the Department of Labor raising concerns about the rationale for the enrollment cuts, which have since been withdrawn. The Loring Jobs Corps Center in Limestone and the Penobscot Job Corps Center in Bangor provide disadvantaged youth with the skills needed to obtain and hold a job, enter the Armed Forces, or enroll in advanced training or higher education.
At the Maine Restaurant and Lodging Expo at the Cross Insurance Center in Portland, Senator King continued his discussion on workforce development and the need for workers in the food service and lodging industries during the summer months. Senator King has continually pushed the U.S. Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to increase the visa cap on H-2B visas for U.S. businesses to hire temporary workers, which helps Maine businesses operate during the tourist season. Last year, Senators Collins and King sent then-Secretary John Kelly and Secretary Alexander Acosta a letter urging them to conduct an audit of any unused H-2B visas. In Spring 2017, they joined with a bipartisan group of Senators to renew that request. Later in the year, they introduced the Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act, bipartisan legislation that makes substantive reforms aimed to help seasonal employers better navigate the H-2B visa program. Senator King also led a letter to Senate leadership urging them to include the bill in the FY 2017 spending bill. After its successful inclusion in the spending bill, Senator King led a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Labor to take immediate action under the authority given to them by Congress to lift the cap. Senator King also signed onto a bipartisan letter to Secretary Kelly again urging him to use the authority provided by Congress to lift the cap on seasonal H-2B visas that employers rely on to fill summer jobs. In the letter, the senators expressed their concern about reports that visas may not be approved in time for peak tourist season. Senator King also discussed the importance of H-2B visas for Maine businesses and people in his May 2017 podcast.