There is currently an intense focus on job growth in Maine and across the country, and rightfully so. As a nation, we continue to climb out of a deep economic recession. Unemployment remains high across the rest of the nation, and here in Maine we're in the midst of a debate about how to move our economy forward. A key to this discussion is how we can better prepare our workers and increase the quality of our workforce with available resources.
There is little doubt that a highly educated and trained workforce is a critical component of economic growth. One of the key measures of a skilled workforce is higher degree attainment. Maine's workforce still lags behind New England in degree attainment with just 37.3% of Mainers age 25 and older holding an associate's degree or higher, compared to just over 44% in New England.
This gap in educational attainment puts Maine residents at a disadvantage for earnings potential and professional advancement, and limits the state's ability to retain, grow, and attract knowledge-based businesses and jobs. This is a contributing factor in Maine's low per capita personal income ranking of 31st in the nation in 2010. This is the lowest in New England and just 75% of the New England average . Median earnings increase steadily with educational attainment for Maine's population age 25 and over, from $18,557 for those with less than a high school diploma to over $52,000 for those with a graduate or professional degree.
Educational attainment is critical to our economy now and we can expect it to become even more important in the future. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of all jobs will require at least some postsecondary education or training by 2018, compared to just 28% in 1973.