In 2010, The Maine Compact for Higher Educationpublished “An Educated Workforce for the 21st Century: Public Policy Opportunities for Higher Education in Maine” (2010). This report provides a prescient context for higher education in Maine, and, along with information from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, suggests the role English Studies can play in Maine’s future job market.
In this report, the Compact outlines 4 key “public policy opportunities.” These opportunities include the following: (1) “Align Higher Education with Workforce Needs,” (2) “Financial Access to College,” (3) “State Support for Higher Education,” (4) and “Multiple Pathways to Higher Education” (2). In his 2011 Symposium “Maine’s Shifting Labor Market Landscape,” John Dorrer provided employment data that substantiates the policy opportunities discussed in the Compact’s report. For instance, Dorrer noted that in Maine employment increasingly requires a bachelor’s degree or higher. Between 1990 and 2009 the number of “employed” Maine residents with post-secondary degrees increased from 20.9% to 29.4% while those with only a high school diploma or less decreased from 52.2% to 36.9%. These trends are reflected in the types of jobs most in demand in Maine. As of 2011, the largest number of job postings was for registered nurses (2,255) and retail salespersons (1,777). The top four skills most in demand were those related to “sales” (2,389), “marketing” (1,488), “mentoring” (726), and “information systems” (563).
When these statistics are juxtaposed with the information provided in the Academy’s “Humanities Report Card” and other related research, the possibilities for advancing English Studies in the state of Maine are apparent. For example, the “Humanities Report Card” notes the following: 84% of “humanities majors” report “a year after college graduation” that “they are satisfied with their choice of major”; taking “more humanities courses” is aligned with a “greater probability of civic engagement”; humanities majors are distributed “throughout different economic sectors,” such as the following: “Management and professional,” “Office and Administrative,” “sales,” and “services” (“Humanities”). Even this limited snapshot suggests that the humanities align well with the future job prospects in Maine. This link is further illustrated in Sheryl Fontaine and Stephen Mexal’s research examining how an English major benefited those California State alumni who completed an English degree. In their research, Fontaine and Mexal found that English majors developed “habits of mind” that were a benefit to their careers. These habits of mind included the following: (1) the ability to “write and use correct grammar,” (2) evaluate information, (3) “see from others’ perspectives,” and (4) understand literature (371). These alumni used these habits and abilities in a wide variety of occupations as diverse as business, health, and education. From this brief review, it seems clear that English studies and the skills central to its subdisciplines will prove essential in Maine’s evolving job market.
Works Cited (I provided links in the text when possible)
Fontaine, Sheryl I and Stephen J. Mexal. “Closing the Deals with Hamlet’s Help: Assessing theInstrumental Value of an English Degree. College English 76.4 (2014): 357-378. Print