By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Last week our city was dressed up to the “nines.” Pride reverberated from inside the Colisee. No, the MAINEiacs hockey team was not announcing its return to Lewiston; rather, it was the expansion of the yearly Business to Business Show.
This exhibition showcased many of the diverse businesses that call LA Metro their home. If you attended the show, you experienced the reinforcement of the phrase, “L-A, it’s happening here.”
It was a grand experience, rightly putting a spotlight on the Lewiston-Auburn area and its surrounding businesses. But when the spotlights fade and the civic pride dissipates, the businesses highlighted at the Colisee will continue to prosper and expand, bringing economic growth and jobs to the area.
But this growth presents local businesses and government a problem: How to supply the work force needed to keep our growing economy running.
A dramatic change is needed in our school system. Currently the phrase “college for me” is repeatedly heard throughout our school system. Students are led to believe that the lack of a college degree will somehow lead to a struggling life of living paycheck to paycheck.
But many students are not academically talented. They apply to college and are accepted. Once enrolled, they are required to take remedial courses in subjects like math, English, reading, etc., in order to bring themselves up to an academic level where they will understand and be able to do the academic work required of them to pass college courses.
These students spend a substantial amount of time and money taking courses that they don’t have the academic prowess to pass. Like those who will graduate from college, they will face the start of their life in debt. The fact that these students were accepted to a college or university knowing that they were academically deficit borders on criminal.
It is time to reexamine our community needs and restructure what’s being taught in our schools in order to meet our community needs. Those needs appear to be the increasing of industrial arts courses.
It is time to give our students the skills that will enable them to successfully enter the job market at the completion of their high school graduation.
Starting work with basic skills to effectively do the job at hand will allow not only the honing of one’s skills, but also upward mobility in the company. It will also allow the employee a clear vision into what training he will need to advance in his career field.
Currently in our area, we have a shortage of electricians, plumbers and various technician jobs needed to keep our city running. These jobs pay well, don’t incur crushing debt and guarantee you a job in your field, not at a fast-food restaurant.
It is time we look at and expand industrial arts programs in our our community schools.
Last Friday, my wife and I attended the graduation ceremony of Lewiston High School Class of 2016. The ceremony was well orchestrated, and it was great to see the graduates proudly marching up to receive their diplomas. The keynote speaker was Ian Clough. His advice to the students was always be proud you come from Lewiston.
This is advice I hope the graduates will carry with them throughout life and hopefully pass this on to their friends and relatives. Lewiston is a great place to live.