MDOL Partnering with EMDC to Expand Employment Opportunities Bookmark and Share

July 10, 2024

For Immediate Release: July 10, 2024

MDOL Partnering with EMDC to Expand Employment Opportunities

This partnership will expand opportunities for justice-involved individuals, people in recovery, and employers looking to hire.

AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Labor has awarded Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC) a $485,521 contract to expand employment opportunities in Central and Northeastern Maine for justice-involved individuals and those in recovery.

This will be done through the "Progressive Employment" model -, which offers a flexible and gradual approach to work, and supports both the jobseeker and employer in creating a supported employment experience. The proven model is rooted in the belief that "everyone is ready for something" on the pathway to employment, with opportunities "progressing" from a tour or job shadow, work experience, on-the-job training support, and ultimately sustainable employment.

"We have seen tremendous success utilizing this model of Progressive Employment when working with Mainers with disabilities. It is an accessible, adaptive, and durable workforce development model that creates opportunities for all people to develop their skills, and for employers to meet their current and future workforce needs," said Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman. "Workers are more likely to stay in Maine and contribute to their communities when they have fulfilling jobs and access to quality career pathways."

EMDC will support individuals in recovery and re-entry connect to employment opportunities through a Progressive Employment approach, building on the model launched in Machias and Bangor areas in partnership with 58 community partners over the last year, including the Northeastern Workforce Development Board, Community Caring Collaborative, Fedcap, DHHS, Community Health and Counseling Services, Living Innovations, Sunrise County Economic Counsel, and others.

"Maine needs to expand its workforce to meet robust economic growth. This Progressive Employment model focuses on helping justice-involved individuals and those in recovery by creating a wider pipeline of valuable workers ready for the workplace. EMDC has participated in several Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan initiatives to create opportunities for all," said Lee Umphrey, President and CEO of EMDC.

This model is an extension of EMDC's ongoing partnership with MDOL as WIOA Service provider for nine counties, offering programs including the Maine's Connecting with Opportunities Initiative that focused on displaced workers impacted by the opioid crisis, and the QUEST program (Quality Jobs, Equity, Strategy and Training Disaster Recovery) grant that focused on connecting historically marginalized and underserved individuals to good jobs, especially those in the care economy, infrastructure, and clean energy. These programs strengthen efforts to serve Maine workers and employers in a coordinated way.

Through Progressive Employment, EMDC plans to support at least 100 jobseekers with employment resources over the next two years - including but not limited to experiential learning opportunities, work experiences, job shadowing, on the job training, mock interviews, company tours, and supports to enhance the likelihood of job success for participants in recovery and justice involved individuals.

EMDC will also work to connect more than 25 businesses with unique opportunities to engage with this untapped labor market. A 2022 survey - found that 100% of businesses surveyed who engaged in Vermont's Progressive Employment program said they will likely do so again in the future, and 93% of employers surveyed were interested in offering more Progressive Employment opportunities.

MDOL's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation has nine years of experience using Progressive Employment with youth and young adults with disabilities, and currently offers the model statewide to Vocational Rehabilitation customers of all ages.

Estimates from an AIR evaluation - of the progressive employment model in Maine among youth with disabilities suggest that youth with disabilities "enrolled in the Progressive Employment program were 10.5 percentage points more likely to be employed in the first year after developing an individualized plan for employment than non-Progressive Employment clients."

Funded through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, EMDC's grant will continue until the fall of 2026.

Interested businesses, jobseekers, and nonprofits can get connected by emailing

Other partners in this initiative include the Bureau of Employment Services, the Division For The Blind and Visually Impaired, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Office of Family Independence (DHHS), Office of Aging and Disability Services (DHHS), Goodwill Northern New England, Bangor Area Recovery Network, Institute for Community Inclusion, Aroostook Mental Health Services, Washington County Community College, and others.