February 22, 2013

LePage administration proposes jobs clearinghouse

The plan is greeted enthusiastically by lawmakers.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA – The LePage administration plans to introduce legislation that would create a statewide online job clearinghouse, partly subsidized by businesses and largely run and promoted by the state, officials told a new legislative committee Friday.

"The need for a skilled, trained work force has never been more important," said John Butera, senior economic adviser to Gov. Paul LePage.

Businesses would pay a one-time fee to join the effort, then pay new hires who come through the pipeline a monthly tuition reimbursement or housing subsidy of as much as $2,500 a year for as long as two years, officials told the Joint Select Committee on Maine's Workforce and Economic Future.

The state would coordinate the job postings and resumes, and handle all marketing and promotional efforts.

Kent Peterson, president and CEO of Fluid Imaging of Yarmouth, told the committee that the program would make a big difference to his technology company.

"Right now I have between five to 10 jobs open. We have the technology, we have the demand. We don't have the people," said Peterson, who came up with the idea for the program and has been working with the state on a proposal.

"Clearly, this is evolving, but I think it's very exciting," said House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, a co-chair of the committee. "This gives us an opportunity to work together in shaping this proposal as a team."

Economic development Commissioner George Gervais said there is no timetable for when the bill will be introduced, how much the program might cost or how to pay for it.

Peterson said that if he used a head hunter to fill his empty positions, he would pay about 25 percent of each hire's first year salary -- $22,500 for a $90,000 job. It's cheaper to join the state's program, he said.

Under the agreement, Peterson said, Maine businesses would send their job postings to the Department of Economic and Community Development, which would put them on the new website. Applications would be sent to the Department of Labor.

Employees in the labor department would go through the applications and serve as statewide matchmakers.

"We're just one company, and maybe we just have four jobs," Peterson said. "If we're not the match for the applicant, maybe company B, C or D would be the match."

The state would benefit because it could use the operation as a recruiting tool, said Paul Turina, chairman of the board of the Maine Technology Institute.

"Sometimes, job candidates think when they come to Maine, they may be limiting themselves somewhat, that there aren't other jobs in the field if this job doesn't work out," Turina said. "This is a misconception. There are plenty of jobs."

The state-backed effort tells people "Maine is a place with so many jobs that we had to do this," Turina said.

Also Friday, the committee discussed the need for coordinating internship programs.

Ed Cervone, president and CEO of the Maine Development Foundation, said the state could partner with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce to build on work they have already done at www.internhelpme.com.

"You have the ability to tie it all together," Cervone told the committee. "For a small investment, you could leverage a lot of interest and money from the private sector. This could be big."

Cervone, who said he had discussed the idea with the chamber of commerce, said he estimated it would cost $80,000 to $100,000 to create the program, and the state could split the cost with the private sector.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

 

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