The Maine Community College System announced Thursday that it has received its largest donation ever – $75.5 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation that will go toward developing the system’s short-term, workforce training programs.

The grant will enable Maine’s community colleges to grow programming that helps current workers and people pursuing a specific career gain usable skills in a matter of days, weeks or months. The five-year grant will enable 70,500 students to participate in the programming, according to the Maine Community College System.

The Alfond Foundation, one of the state’s leading philanthropic organizations, and the Maine Community College System hope the expanded programming will ease Maine’s ongoing labor shortages.

“These programs, developed side-by-side with Maine employers large and small, give Maine workers free access to the skills they need to enter and progress in today’s workforce,” system President David Daigler said in a statement.

Gov. Janet Mills, who spoke at the event at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland where the grant was announced Thursday, said she’s optimistic that the training programs will help the state continue to build its workforce.

“Today, we celebrate the progress we have made recovering from the pandemic and rebuilding a stronger workforce, thanks in large part to the work of the Harold Alfond Foundation and Maine’s Community College System,” she said. “This next stage of investment will build on that important progress by … educating the workforce of tomorrow.”


The grant is the Alfond Foundation’s largest donation to the Maine Community College System so far, and it builds on two other grants since 2019 with the same mission. The foundation’s contributions to the community college system now amount to nearly $100 million.

The programming is run through the Harold Alfond Center for the Advancement of Maine’s Workforce, which the system opened in 2021 with the help of a second grant of $15.5 million.

The system targets three areas in need of quicker training. The pre-hire training offers skill-building for people looking to enter a specific industry or career. The incumbent worker training enables people already in the workforce to learn updated skillsets in their evolving fields. And a scholarship initiative enables students who already participated in the programming to move on to associate degree or certification programs.

The training opportunities include courses in welding, construction, heat pump installation, entry-level commercial driving, dental assistant instruction and phlebotomy refreshers.

The center also fosters connections between students and prospective employers. The Maine Community College System said in the announcement that participating in the short-term welding program guarantees an interview with Bath Iron Works, a financial incentive to participate and, for some students, campus housing.

All of this short-term training, the system says, is normally free.


Greg Powell, chairman of the foundation, said the $75.5 million grant builds on what the organization sees as success in the community college system’s programming so far.

“We’re proud our grantmaking will lead to so many people getting the relevant, responsive job skills so needed by our economy,” he said.

The Alfond Foundation and community college system have a long-term goal to add more workers to Maine’s labor force. The size of Maine’s civilian workforce, people either employed or looking for work, returned to pre-pandemic levels in May, according to statistics from the Maine Department of Labor released Tuesday.

But Gov. Janet Mills said in early June that Maine’s economic growth is outpacing the number of people available to work. Though Maine has made “significant progress” in labor force growth, it’s fallen short “of where we need to be,” the state reported in an updated 10-year economic development strategy released in April. The Mills administration has developed a goal to expand Maine’s workforce by 75,000 people by 2030. But if the rate of growth is on par with growth over the last three years, Maine would add fewer than 45,000 employees from 2020 to 2030.

Mills initiated legislative action to fund job training programs and free community college tuition for students graduating in 2020 through 2025. She said Thursday that her initiatives and the work of the Harold Alfond Center are chipping away at the ongoing workforce shortage.

“Creating new pathways to middle-skill positions at the heart of Maine’s economy … is already making a real difference in Maine,” she said. “Together, you are helping us build a stronger, more prosperous state. I think Harold Alfond would be proud.”

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