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Business and Economy

Bill Aims To Bolster Maine's Renewable Energy Workforce Through Apprenticeship Programs

A bill aimed at increasing the development of Maine’s workforce through apprenticeships and other requirements underwent a lengthy public hearing Friday before the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee.

Under the bill, the state would give preference to subsidizing renewable energy projects by contractors that use an apprenticeship program, and pay a prevailing wage. Opponents say the measure could have unintended consequences.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Scott Cuddy of Winterport, says Maine’s future growth depends on more skilled workers in the trades, such as plumbers and electricians.

“Apprenticeship is the most tried and true tool we have to build a trained and diverse, skilled workforce. We should utilize it,” he says.

But some argued that the language in the proposal could have the opposite effect, impeding the development of a skilled workforce. And several in the business community testified that the prevailing wage would increase the costs of those projects, and could discourage developers from building them.

“The unintentional consequences of LD 1231 would result in fewer solar array installations being constructed at higher prices due to disqualifying a majority of Maine workers from doing the job,” says Peter Vigue, president of Cianbro.

Corrected: April 12, 2021 at 8:31 AM EDT
Democratic Rep. Scott Cuddy of Winterport is the bill's sponsor, not Kevin Cuddy.