SMCC President Joe Cassidy, front left, and Portland Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana, sign an agreement at SMCC Nov. 20 for the Building the Pipeline initiative between SMCC and Portland Adult Education. Also attending, back row from left, are SMCC Vice President and Academic Dean Paul Charpentier, Portland Adult Education Executive Director Anita St. Onge, and Sally Sutton, Program Coordinator of the New Mainers Resource Center. Courtesy / Southern Maine Community College

PORTLAND — Portland Adult Education and Southern Maine Community College have teamed up to increase workforce training and educational opportunities for new Mainers.

Through the Building the Pipeline initiative, Portland Adult Education will refer individuals who have gone through its New Mainers Resource Center to workforce training programs at Southern Maine Community College, said Jim Whitten, the college’s dean of workforce development. 

The program will “improve the screening, testing, evaluation and prior learning assessment of immigrant populations in southern Maine to align more closely with  workforce training and credential-awarding programs at SMCC,” according to a press release.

“We’ve done some other programs with New Mainers that were rather intensive, but we have found they still need some more language and job preparation skills,” Whitten said. “We have the programming already; this arrangement will provide an extra audience that may be able to qualify for those programs,” he said.

Portland Adult Education Executive Director Anita St. Onge said the program will help immigrants become ready for high-demand jobs in the area.

Since December 2013, Portland Adult Education’s New Mainers Resource Center on Locust Street has worked with professionals from other countries to help break down barriers they face here, such as language comprehension and credential transfer, and to provide them with information about career pathways, resume standards and how American workplaces function.

In 2018, close to 400 new Mainers sought help from the resource center, and 73% of them had a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the center’s 2018 annual report. More than 300 took part in the center’s case management and career advising services and more than 575 took part in programming. The report says 95% of those who passed through the New Mainers Resource Center found employment.

New Mainers Resource Center alumni over the last few years have landed jobs at the University of Southern Maine, Maine Medical Center, Greater Portland Health, Bernstein Shur, Portland City Hall, Sigco in Westbrook and ON Semiconductor in South Portland.

“Our goal is to get foreign-trained and skilled professionals into the highest level position we can here, ” St. Onge said

Partnering with the college was a natural fit, she said.

“SMCC has always been one of the arrows in our quiver,” she said.

Whitten said the initiative is a new venture for the college.

“We have built programs to build a pipeline for our academic programs, but we have never really done anything with adult education like this to build a pipeline for our workforce training,” Whitten said.

The college sees a particular need for workforce development in the health care, manufacturing, information technology and customer service sectors. SMCC is offering upcoming manufacturing technician training for General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and outboard motor repair training for Yamaha. It also customizes workforce training programs for employers and has conducted training at Barber Foods, Disability RMS, Goodwill, HP Hood, Long Creek Youth Development Center, Maine Medical Center, Plum Choice and WEX.

New Mainers from 90 countries around the world made up more than half of the approximately 4,000 students participating in Portland Adult Education programming last year.

For more information about Portland Adult Education’s New Mainers Resource Center, visit nmrcmaine.org. Information on Southern Maine Community College’s workforce training program can be found on the college’s website.

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