This is the final installment of my four-part series on workforce issues.  Very briefly, the first three parts covered the generational shift in the workforce over the next decade, nine social barriers facing the unemployed and some successful strategies that are being implemented.  To see any of those please search the Times Record website for previous Wednesday columns or reach out to me at the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber in Brunswick and I can send you copies.

In this final installment, I want to highlight several other workforce programs you should be aware of, and make one final appeal for the importance of this work.  Let’s start with a few of the workforce groups and successes:

Coastal Counties Workforce Inc.

CCWI, for short, is a non-profit workforce development team who receives state and federal money to put into workforce programming.  That is a very broad definition, but to give you a full picture of what they do would take several of these columns.  The output is correct though, they receive government funds to partner with agencies to work on filling workforce needs.  The staff works out of Brunswick but is responsible for 1/3 of the counties in the state accounting for over 50% of the population (their territory runs up the coastal counties from York to Waldo).  They have funds that need to be spent on skill development training including but not limited to literacy and vocational rehabilitation.  They have partners, like Workforce Solutions for example, who actually execute the trainings and meet with potential employees.  CCWI is the overseer of many projects, but to learn about all that they have available for employers and employees- check out www.coastalcounties.org

Southern Midcoast
CareerCenter

The Department of Labor has on-the-ground offices for workforce and those are the career centers.  These government employees are tuned into the state programs available to both job seekers and employers and they have one of the most comprehensive online  job boards called Maine Job Link.  In fact, because it’s a state-run operation their job board is connected to national job banks, meaning your posting can get viewed nationally when posted here.  The centers also work closely with groups like CCWI and the chamber to keep informed of all of the local programming.  Their jobs are to help people find jobs.  In any community these are a great place to start and our local one happens to be right on Brunswick Landing inside the L.L. Bean Learning Commons on the Southern Maine Community College campus.

Midcoast A-Team (Action Team)

This is a monthly group of schools, businesses and state agents covering Brunswick, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties that meet in Wiscasset to discuss workforce programming.  Being less than a year old this group is just beginning its work, but already they have connected students from Wiscasset into the hospitality industry and have created school and industry partnerships to help train students for the jobs needed.

HospitalityMaine & Maine Tourism Association Workforce Initiatives

HospitalityMaine (which is the new group formed when the Maine Innkeepers and Maine Restaurant associations merged) is launching a workforce pilot program this year and hired a staff member that is exclusively working on workforce.  That staff member is none other than former State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Terry Hayes.  The new program is a pilot internship program where students will learn multiple aspects of either lodging or restaurants to further their connection to the industry and give them the skills to succeed.   

Maine Tourism Association also has a dedicated staff person working on a separate pilot program this year.  Their program is working on transplanting tourism workers from around New England and the country to come to Maine in our busy summer season when their regions may be in their slow season.  Think of skiing destinations, for instance, who are busy October to March but may be slow April to September.  Or consider summer resorts in hotter climates that are more popular in October to April too, because it’s just too hot in the summer.  They’re working on building some pipelines to relocate these workers seasonally.

MTEC and Maine Energy
Marketers Association

MTEC is a technical education center in Brunswick that offers accelerated training in heating, cooling, plumbing and more and introduces their gradates directly to employers.  The employers actually partner with the school and provide the equipment the students need to train on so that if they get hired by their company they will already be familiar with the products used.  The HVAC-R 3.5-month professional certification program is their most popular.  Find out more at www.mtecenter.com

A Final Plea for
Workforce Prosperity

The MTEC, HospitalityMaine and MTA programs are just three examples of what industries are working on to solve their own workforce problems.  That’s what business leaders do, they adapt to what is needed.  Yet, these industry programs are busy treating some of the symptoms of workforce problems.  What we need to do is treat the root cause; which is where the chamber comes in.

Over the next three to six months we will be creating a Workforce Advisory Council that will develop new programming and also implement other proven workforce programs that have worked in other parts of the country. These programs will begin to chip away at two major areas: overcoming barriers to employment (like housing, transportation, childcare, etc.) and building stronger relationships between educators and businesses.

This work will determine the future of our region.  That sounds like hyperbole, but with retirements higher in the next ten years than at any time in U.S. history, the communities who are preparing now for tomorrow will be the communities that thrive through the transition.  We are the caretakers of this responsibility. We need to put our full focus here.  No excuses.  Nothing is more important for our businesses over the next decade then ensuring our businesses have the employees they need.  It’s the backbone of our region.

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