Maine Department of Labor Launches Peer Workforce Program to Connect Maine People to Jobs and Training Bookmark and Share

March 22, 2022

For Immediate Release: March 22, 2022

Maine Department of Labor Launches Peer Workforce Program to Connect Maine People to Jobs and Training

The two-year, $1 million, pilot program, an initiative of Governor Mills' Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, will work with a coalition of statewide organizations to connect more than 3,000 jobseekers to employment, training & other resources to bring them into the workforce.

Augusta, MAINE - The Maine Department of Labor today announced the launch of its pilot peer workforce navigator program, a partnership with several organizations from across the state to connect more than 3,000 Maine people to employment, training, and resources for needs such as childcare and transportation.

Selected through a competitive proposal process, a coalition of partner organizations, including the Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Equal Justice, Food AND Medicine, Prosperity Maine, and Gateway Community Services, will work together with MDOL to reach underserved populations who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and help support their entry into the workforce.

"Helping Maine people enter the workforce is a top priority for the Mills Administration. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, local organizations have worked to connect people in their communities to the vital resources they need to get into the workforce. This peer navigator program will harness those existing relationships, knowledge of workforce supports, and the lived experiences of the thousands of people they helped during the pandemic to help connect Mainers to employment and training opportunities," Commissioner Laura Fortman said.

"As thousands of Maine workers evaluate what comes next in their work lives, we look forward to directly connecting them with good jobs, registered apprenticeship and training programs and the supports, like childcare or unemployment insurance, they need to achieve economic security and dignity. Peer workforce navigators, rooted in their communities, will help build the workforce and high wage economy Mainers need," said Matt Schlobohm, Executive Director of the Maine AFL-CIO.

Through this partnership, the coalition intends to connect more than 3,000 individuals with education, training, workforce, or other social service supports through peer navigator support-including connecting more than 1,500 individuals to employment opportunities.

Peer navigators will be integrated in communities throughout the state. Connections will be made to immigrant and refugee communities in Lewiston/Auburn and Greater Portland, individuals experiencing unemployment in rural communities, low-income families, and communities of other workers represented by or connected to one of the 160 unions within Maine AFL-CIOs statewide network.

The program builds on proven practices to connect workers to employment and training opportunities, an imperative for Maines economic recovery, and it advances the Maine Department of Labors mission to connect employers with jobseekers, including those who have sometimes been left on the sidelines.

Core elements of the program include: conducting outreach and educational activities to raise awareness of workforce opportunities and other resources; connecting individuals to jobs, benefits, and workforce programs; and capturing data on program participants to track long-term employment outcomes.

The pilot project partners plan to leverage the unique strengths of each organization. Maine Equal Justice will develop and deliver training for navigators; the Maine AFL-CIO will incorporate its lessons learned during the pandemic on conducting effective outreach to communities; Food AND Medicine will incorporate lessons from similar peer support programs, and Prosperity Maine and Gateway Community Services will provide critical, trusted linkages between the immigrant, refugee and asylum-seeker communities and needed workforce, training and basic needs resources.

"Across the country and here in Maine, the onset of the pandemic brought sudden layoffs and great uncertainty," said Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford, who co-sponsored legislation to take a hands-on, human approach to workforce re-entry. "Through this navigator program, Mainers will help Mainers get back on their feet and into good jobs in our state. We listened to the experiences of impacted workers and employers and I am so proud that Maine will deploy this direct support to meet our workforce needs and help folks connect with resources when they need them the most."

"Helping people find pathways to good-paying, fulfilling careers has been one of my top priorities for decades. Investing in programs that help Mainers find a career path thats right for them is vital to maintaining our workforce and helping our economy thrive. Thats especially true now, as more and more Mainers are reassessing their goals and exploring new opportunities. Thats why Im so pleased that the Peer Workforce Navigator Program is moving forward," said Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic.

"We are excited to be part of this project working with the Maine Department of Labor and community partners to improve and strengthen the ways we connect people with good jobs, training opportunities, and supports to meet basic needs. This project will make it easier for people to navigate complex systems and programs to get the help they need when they need it," said Robyn Merrill, Executive Director of Maine Equal Justice.

"In 2020 ProsperityME saw the crisis caused by an influx of unexpected layoffs. We are very pleased to be part of this partnership between the Maine Department of Labor and service providers who will connect low-income individuals with workforce development and unemployment services to prepare and plan for a better future," said Claude Rwaganje, Executive Director of ProsperityME.

"During the outset of the pandemic, Gateway Community Services Maine heard from many community members who were impacted by the flood of layoffs. Many of the community members we work with, along with members from our team, were being called in by fellow neighbors to support and help navigate the challenging unemployment process offering interpretation, cultural brokering, technical support and so much more," said Kate Fahey, Director of Programs of Gateway Community Services Maine. "Partnering with the Maine Department of Labor at this time will ensure that these community-based navigators are available to reach a far wider number of our neighbors."

"For people in the hard spot of losing their job and trying to get a new one, there are often a host of challenges," said Jack McKay, Director of Food AND Medicine. "Peer support workers are a tested and effective way to aid people in getting people the support they need to move to employment. We look forward to joining this innovative and exciting program."

The Department of Labor announced the two-year peer workforce navigator pilot program on January 13, 2022, and accepted applications from interested organizations through February 4.

Twelve applications from community-based organizations, businesses, workforce organizations, and labor unions were received and reviewed by a team in accordance with scoring guidelines set forth in the RFA, including program design, applicant experience, intended outcomes and equity (see the "Selection Package" for additional detail)

The program is backed by $1 million in American Rescue Plan funding from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governors plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to improve the lives of Maine people and families, help businesses, create good-paying jobs, and build an economy poised for future prosperity.

It draws heavily on recommendations from the Governors Economic Recovery Committee and the States 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, transforming them into real action to improve the lives of Maine people and strengthen the economy.

Funding for the Jobs Plan is through the Federal American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to Maine in 2021. Coordination of the Jobs Plan is led by the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services and the Governors Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

For more about Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, visit .