Congratulations to all the high school grads out there! And congrats to everyone who just earned a college degree. You have worked hard to get where you are, and now it’s time to celebrate.

You’re on your way to joining the ranks of some of the most successful people in the country, and you have a lot to look forward to. But there are also some things you’ll need to consider as you move forward: What kind of job do you want? How do you get that job? What does your career path look like? How do you manage your finances once you’re out on your own?

I know that for many of you, the prospect of going to college can be daunting. The costs of tuition and student loans are high, and it’s not always clear how the degree you get will help you land a job. But I want to remind you that there are people who care about your success and want to help you pursue your education.

That’s why I’m incredibly excited about the new free community college program. As part of this year’s budget, we provided funding for up to two years of free community college for all Maine students who graduate in the classes of 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 and then enroll in a Maine community college full time in the fall of 2022 or the fall of 2023.

This program is designed to help students get trained in areas where jobs are available right now — so they can start working as soon as they graduate and not have the burden of debt limit their potential.

We all know that education isn’t just about getting a degree — it’s about investing in yourself as an individual and being ready for whatever comes next, whether it’s starting a family or your own business. The skills you learn at a community college will prepare you for those opportunities in life when they come along.

Over the past 12 months, Maine added 19,200 payroll jobs, and the unemployment rate fell by 1.7 percentage points. I have always emphasized the importance of investing in career and technical education. I’m proud that we have provided additional funding for these programs so that schools can help students develop the skills they need to fill these new jobs. Students who participate get access to courses that will help them build careers in high-demand fields like nursing, emergency medicine, carpentry, and transportation. With these skills, students can find great jobs right here at home that pay well and need skilled workers. We’re also making sure that training programs are set up so students can earn an industry-recognized credential or certificate from training programs that are delivered through our state’s community colleges.

Fixing the student debt crisis is not just an economic issue; it’s a moral imperative. We need to improve the way we fund higher education so that every student has the opportunity to graduate college without being burdened by debt. Graduating college without debt is vital for our students to succeed and go into the workforce without being trapped by loans.

If you’re graduating high school this year and are looking for some advice, my suggestion is to keep your eye on programs at our community colleges. In Maine and the U.S. in general, jobs that require technical training are growing by leaps and bounds. For financial planning resources, visit famemaine.com or call 207-623-3263.

Free community college for the next two years is here now — it’s not just an idea anymore. Take advantage of this opportunity to get trained and enter the workforce with the right skills for the job. In the end, it will pay off for you — and all of Maine.

Sen. Dave Miramant (D – Knox) represents Senate District 12.