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Bill Aims to Attract Immigrants to Maine to Bolster Workforce

Mal Leary
Maine Public
State Sen. Roger Katz at a Tuesday news conference.

A state senator concerned with the dwindling number of applicants for thousands of current and future job vacancies in Maine says immigrants hold the key to replenishing the state’s aging workforce.

Republican state Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta says his bill would create the cabinet-level Office of New Mainers to attract more immigrants to Maine and provide those new residents with the training they need to succeed in the state’s labor force.

“Let’s face it, we compete with every other state in the country for human capital,” he says. “New Mainers should be a critical part of our good economic development strategy. We need to be smart, we need to be focused and we need to be welcoming. And this bill, we believe, sets us in the right direction to try and meet those goals.”

During a State House press conference, labor consultant John Dorrer said there are immigrants in Maine with valuable skills for available openings who are shut out of the job market due to language proficiency issues.

“Maine simply can’t afford to park individuals with those kinds of qualifications on the sidelines and wring our hands that we can’t find qualified workers,” he said.

Under Katz’s measure, the Office of New Mainers would receive about $1.6 million to boost English language courses and improve workplace cultural skills.

The bill is scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday before the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.