Gov. Janet Mills announced Tuesday a new initiative to help Maine schools recruit, train, and retain educators through pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs to address Maine’s educator workforce shortage.
The initiative will be funded in part by Gov. Mills’ Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, while also receiving support from the federal government through the U.S. Department of Labor.
The governor’s Jobs & Recovery Plan, approved by the Legislature in 2021, is Mills’ plan to invest nearly $1 billion in federal funds to help Maine recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the daughter of a longtime public school teacher, I deeply and personally understand the lifelong impact that teachers have on their students, schools, and communities,” said Gov. Janet Mills in a Tuesday press release. “A teacher can make all the difference in the life of a student, and we should do what we can to ensure that those who want to advance in the teaching profession have the opportunity to do so.”
“These apprenticeship programs are important to help educators take the next step in their careers. Using funding from my Jobs Plan, we will help Maine schools find the teachers they need and support educators on the path to fulfilling careers as they make a difference in the lives of our children,” Mills said.
The expansion to educator apprenticeship programs will be supported by $100,000 from Gov. Mills’ Jobs Plan and $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor’s State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity, and Innovation (SAEEI) Grant.
Schools and other education and community-related organizations can apply for competitive funding, with awards up to $250,000, to launch local educator pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeship programs.
The number and size of the grant awards will depend on the number of proposals received, which are due this September.
Gov. Mills previously allocated $12.3 million to 14 Maine organizations to support an expansion of apprenticeship programs.
Maine’s Registered Apprenticeship Program currently has 1,292 active apprentices and 142 registered sponsors, representing 261 participating businesses in Maine.
The new apprenticeship initiative expands upon a program launched last year at Washington County Community College and the Gorham School District, which provided classroom training to apprentices to create a pathway to continue their education and become certified teachers.
“The Maine Department of Labor works with employers to fulfill their workforce needs and works to connect Maine’s people to high quality jobs. One way that we do this is through mutually beneficial registered apprenticeships,” said Laura Fortman, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor.
“Registered Apprenticeship is an excellent training model for schools to use, as it supports those already working in Maine’s schools to advance down the path of becoming a certified teacher, while continuing to earn an income,” Fortman said.
The Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education and the President of the Maine Education Association both voiced their support for the governor’s apprenticeship initiative.
“The Maine Department of Education is committed to ensuring that everyone who wants to be a teacher in Maine has a pathway into the profession and is supported in the classroom,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education.
“Teacher apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships offer a meaningful pathway to recruit, prepare, and support aspiring educators and these programs are aligned to the strategies embedded in our Teach Maine plan to build a robust teacher workforce in our state,” Makin added. “We are excited to partner with the Department of Labor to invest in pilot programs that will lead to an effective teacher apprenticeship model for Maine.”