Governor Janet Mills visited Portland Adult Education (PAE) this week to promote its work in providing job and workforce training opportunities for Maine people. As part of her tour, Governor Mills visited with students in English learning classrooms, joined a virtual classroom, and participated in a discussion with former students who have graduated from PAE programs and are now in the workforce.
During the governor’s Oct. 19 visit, immigrant students in a beginning English class took turns explaining to her why they’re learning English – reasons such as being able to get better jobs and to understand more about the culture in which their children are growing up. One student said she was thrilled that Mills had shaken her hand as they both were entering the building. “I’m so happy,” she said to the governor.
“Maine welcomes you with all our heart,” Governor Mills told the students.
PAE is one of more than 70 adult education programs across Maine that provide job and workforce training, English learning classes, and other instructional courses that lead to better employment opportunities. Governor Mills, with the support of the Legislature, has increased funding for adult education in Maine by approximately 14 percent since taking office in January 2019, including a $1.2 million increase specifically in adult education workforce development funding.
“Maine has been grappling with a workforce shortage for decades now, and the pandemic has only made it worse,” continued Governor Mills. “Adult education is a critical component in our efforts to address that serious problem and strengthen our workforce. Not only does adult education equip more people with the skills needed to get a good-paying job, but it also allows them to put down roots, raise families, and live a rewarding life while contributing to the overall growth of our economy. It was a pleasure to visit Portland Adult Education, meet with its incredible students and staff, and see firsthand the important work they are doing every day to make Maine a better place.”
The Maine adult education system also partners with the Maine CareerCenters, local employers, higher education, and community agencies to maximize the education and training opportunities for adult learners.
PAE serves more than 2,000 racially and linguistically diverse students in its academic and workforce programs each year. Working with strong employer and community partnerships, PAE designs and implements customized workforce training opportunities for students to enter or advance in a range of professional fields, including health care, education, financial services, early childhood education and transportation. PAE offers 10-12 week intensive programs that integrate targeted language and skills training, as well as career advising and job search support in partnership with PAE’s New Mainers Resource Center.
"It was great to have the Governor acknowledge the incredible work of our staff and students,” said PAE Executive Director Anita St. Onge. “Adult education programs throughout the state are working to provide education for students seeking a high school diploma, preparing students for college, and providing training to strengthen Maine's workforce. We are also working with foreign-trained professionals to provide education and advice with workforce issues and licensing, enabling them to reach their highest potential."
“We were happy to welcome Governor Janet Mills to Portland Adult Education,” said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana. “PAE is a wonderful resource to Portland and a major source of economic development. I always say that every dollar we invest in adult education is not just a dollar invested in PAE students. It is a dollar invested in their children, in their families, and in the whole community. I appreciate Governor Mills’ recognition of this and look forward to working with her and the adult education community to maximize the value of PAE and direct the appropriate resources to support their growth and development.”
The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.
PHOTOS: Governor Janet Mills is shown talking to Portland Adult Education students in a classroom and outside the building with PAE Executive Director Anita St. Onge and PPS Superintendent Xavier Botana.