PORTLAND, Maine — The middle of July is normally a quiet time around college campuses but after a pandemic-riddled school year, educators have had little time to rest before the fall semester begins.
When the new year does pick back up, Maine's colleges and universities will have more funding to aid various projects and programs around the state thanks to the Maine Jobs & Recovery plan.
“The idea is to put the dollars to where they’ll make the biggest difference and where they’ll be used quickly," University of Maine President Ferrini-Mundy said Wednesday.
Governor Janet Mills signed the plan into law that will allocate more than $1 billion to various industries around Maine. $35 million is set to go to the UMaine System.
“Develop a workforce for Maine, develop talent for Maine, is a particular focus we are able to now act on," she added.
While the flagship campus is based in Orono, Ferrini-Mundy added these dollars will be awarded to a set of projects at campuses around Maine that will make the biggest difference in two to three years.
One innovative project hub that is set to receive $2.5 million is the University of Southern Maine's Dubyak Center.
“This gives us an opportunity to really get us to that next level," President Glenn Cummings said. "That idea is for us to create places where our graduate students and undergraduate students can come and innovate with ideas.”
“What this will do is this will create the infrastructure and provide the programming and it will serve as truly a centralized location that focuses on pushing the boundaries on data science and also providing a workforce," Jeremey Qualls, Dean of the USM College Technology and Health said.
Qualls monitors and oversees the work done at the Dubyak Center which has at least 20 3D printers and other established projects.
“It’s a perfect time, it’s relevant and it’s important," Qualls said. “This helps redefine, where Maine wants to be [digitally]."
The funding will help launch Maine's current and future workforce into tomorrow according to Ferrini-Mundy. Maine's Community College System will also get a sliver of federal aid.
“And that funding is so vital to being able to help businesses recover the pandemic and really thrive," David Daigler, President of the Maine Community College System said. “Anyone who’s tried to get a plumber or an electrician these days knows and understands some of those challenges.”
Daigler added training and attracting a younger and more skilled workforce is an added benefit of the new funding supporting these schools and programs.
“We as Maine have an opportunity to step into a new economic opportunity, to do that we need a strong, skilled workforce and that’s what we’re here to do," he said.