USDOL Awards Maine $4.85 Million Grant to Expand Training for Jobs in Demand Bookmark and Share

July 7, 2014

Grant expands industry partnerships and targets long-term unemployed and New Mainers

For Immediate Release: July 7, 2014 Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 207-621-5009

AUGUSTA— The U.S. Department of Labor announced that it is awarding the Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Employment Services a $4.85 million job-training grant. The Job-Driven National Emergency Grant (JD-NEG) will be used to build and expand upon successful industry partnerships and to establish a customized approach to training, with the goal of reconnecting long-term unemployed and New Mainers to the state’s workforce.

“Maine’s status as the ‘oldest state’ presents a significant challenge in meeting both short- and long-term workforce needs,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “We don’t have enough younger workers to replace retiring baby boomers. We need to ensure that people who have lost jobs or who want to work are retrained and provided with the skills and certifications that employers in growing industries demand. This grant will target people who need to rejoin the workforce, helping businesses meet their needs for employees and grow our economy. We need every Mainer.”

Maine’s population is the oldest in the nation with 51 percent of our workers aged 45 or older. The number of young people entering the labor force lags the number aging out, reflecting a continuation of aging trends that have been underway for more than two decades due to the decline in births per year after 1990. To fill the workforce gaps, Maine must connect individuals who are not now or are only marginally attached to the workforce with the skills to fill in-demand occupations.

“Maine’s in-demand occupations require explicit, complex and sophisticated skills, making it difficult for people who have lost jobs in one industry to transfer to jobs in growing sectors,” said Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette. “We need to re-engage workers who have been disconnected and integrate New Mainers with foreign credentials into high-demand sectors, particularly health care. This grant will do that by targeting specific populations and key industries.”

Paquette explained that, “New Mainers face a number of barriers to getting a job here. They lack information about our work culture and professional organizations, they may need courses in English or accent reduction and they need to know how to transfer their degree to meet our professional licensing requirements. This grant will help eliminate some of these barriers.”

In addition, the grant will build and expand upon successful industry partnerships and establish a customized approach to reconnecting the long-term unemployed and New Mainers to the workforce. This approach will involve substantial employer engagement with specific employers that have current, unfilled openings. The department will partner with Local Workforce Investment Boards to facilitate customized training approaches that address immediate employer needs and the needs of the long-term unemployed. Job-driven workforce academies for specific companies and industries that have reported a demand for entry and mid-level skilled workers will be a major focus of the grant.

Workforce academies will be comprised of tiered levels of industry-specific training beginning with basic skill blocks. That initial tier will teach customer service, professionalism, safety training, basic computer skills, basics of industry terminology, team building and communication skills as well as explore career pathways within the industry. The academy training will then progress in tiers to other training options including customized training opportunities specific to an individual employer’s identified needs, industry-recognized certificate or credential training for occupations in high-demand within an industry sector and company-provided on-the-job training or registered apprenticeship. Workforce academies in areas of Maine where the majority of New Mainers reside will be expanded to include modules specifically designed to meet their specific educational needs.

The grant application identified several work-based training projects. These include training for positions at St. Croix Tissue in Washington County, training welders in central Maine, and training HVAC natural gas installation and maintenance technicians throughout the state; implementing a ten-week pre-apprenticeship construction workforce academy using Cianbro’s in-house training facility; developing health care workforce academies and new health care apprenticeships; and training new composite technicians through on-the-job-training for Maine’s boat-building industry.

The two-year grant will begin implementation July 1, 2014 and run through June 30, 2016.