The Harold Alfond Foundation is providing a $3.6 million grant to Maine’s community colleges to expand and enhance short-term training programs in four high-demand industries facing worker shortages: health care, manufacturing and trades, information technology and construction.

The foundation announced the grant to The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges on Monday night at an event highlighting the colleges’ workforce and training initiatives.

“This grant provides critical fuel for the engine and will allow the colleges to speed delivery of new training programs and partnerships at a time when they are so badly needed across the state,” said former Maine Gov. John McKernan, board chairman of the community colleges foundation.

College officials say the money will go toward new programs that make use of “badges,” which are earned by students as they acquire specific skills through short-term training rather than the traditional one- or two-year programs. The use of credentials or badges is increasingly being offered by higher education institutions in an effort to attract mid-career workers looking to expand their skills, retrain adults who are older than traditional college students, or to meet specific workforce needs identified by the state’s business community.

The Maine Community College System has made several changes to address those workforce needs, said system President Derek Langhauser.

Among them are compressing the traditional semester schedule to meet seasonal workforce demands and developing training programs tailored to specific employers, ranging from some with as few as five workers, to a special welding program developed for Bath Iron Works, with almost 6,000 employees.

“Our community colleges are key to addressing Maine’s workforce challenges,” Alfond Foundation Chairman Greg Powell said Monday in announcing the $3.6 million grant. “They are leading the way, opening the door to opportunity for more Maine people through innovative education and training that meet both the immediate and long-term needs of students and the state.”

In November, voters approved a $15 million bond for the community college system to fund programs aimed at easing workforce shortages.

The Alfond foundation is a longtime contributor to the community colleges foundation, including an $11 million gift in 2012. The system enrolls 16,622 students at seven campuses.

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

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