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Maine Development Foundation


Universities must prepare the work force

Press Herald - Matthew Stone


December 16th, 2010

A new report identifies education as a key to Maine's growth and sets some ambitious goals.

AUGUSTA - Maine's public universities must work together more closely, do a better job of serving the business community, maintain world-class facilities and make sure that a college education is affordable.

The future of Maine's economy depends on it.

That's the gist of a report, released Wednesday, that assesses the role of the University of Maine System in fostering economic growth in the state.

"The engine of growth is our people," said Laurie Lachance, president and chief executive officer of the Maine Development Foundation and the primary author of the report. "The higher the education of our people, the more powerful that engine will be."

The Maine Development Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, which collaborated to produce the report, released it during an event in the Holocaust and Human Rights Center at the University of Maine at Augusta.

The document, "Making Maine Work: The Role of Maine's Public University System," comes as a new administration and Legislature take power and as Maine struggles to recover from a major economic downturn.

It comes more than a year after the University of Maine System released a restructuring plan aimed in part at aligning the system's functions with the state's economic development priorities.

"It will help us make better decisions," University of Maine System Chancellor Richard Pattenaude said of the report. "It will help us serve the business community better."

The report, requested by the university system, is the second in the "Making Maine Work" series. The first identified changes to make Maine more appealing for businesses.

"Government needs to lay the foundation," said Maine State Chamber President Dana Connors. "There is no greater element of that foundation than education -- higher education."

The report makes a series of operational recommendations for the University of Maine System and its seven campuses, along with setting a number of goals toward which the university system could work.

Lachance, for example, suggested that the university system and its seven campuses work together more closely, rather than as separate entities.

"A true system allows for free flow of ideas and people across that system," she said.

The report also suggests that university campuses align their curriculums to meet the needs of business by setting up business advisory boards throughout the system.

Additionally, it urges campuses to bring some of their research and development directly to businesses that can market and implement the ideas.

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