Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Mainers Workforce Partnership-L/A hosts first graduation

Back in April, a group of community partners got together and formed the New Mainers Workforce Partnership-L/A. The objective was workforce development and training and specifically, the focus was oriented towards designing a training program specifically targeted to non-English speakers.

In May, Maine's Department of Labor released a report, An Analysis of the Employment Patterns of Somali Immigrants to Lewiston, from 2001 to 2006. The report provided something more than anecdotal evidence of concerns that many had been voicing, concerning unemployment within the immigrant/refugee population in Lewiston/Auburn.

With the release of the report, the NMWP-L/A had hard data to warrant the efforts of a diverse group of local partners, representing the Central/Western ME Workforce Investment Board, Lewiston Adult Education, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., the Lewiston CareerCenter (MDOL), Catholic Charities of Maine, DHHS/ASPIRE, and STTAR (Refugee Acculturation & Self-sufficiency services) Consultancy.

Lewiston Adult Education did a remarkable job making key modifications to an existing, successful ready-to-work curriculum specific to the need to introduce workplace language skills to non-English speakers. Components of the ready-to-work training consisted of 60 hours of soft skills, with an additional 60 hours targeted towards cultural skills specific to helping trainees understand the ways of the American workplace.

[proud graduates display credentials]

Beginning September 8, 13 new trainees embarked on a rigorous six week training pilot, the first offered in Lewiston (Portland initiated a somewhat different pilot back in 2007). Four hours per day, this group of six women and seven men spoke in English, wrote in English, and processed all activities in English, all designed to improve their basic skills in preparation for employment and/or additional training.

While the majority of participants were Somali, other countries represented were China, Puerto Rico, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

[Two trainees pose for photo]

[Trainees and their two training facilitators/instructors]

During this six-week program, each week, a local employer came into the classroom and spoke for an hour about business practices, expectations of new employees, and opportunities at their place of business. These businesses represented manufacturing, customer service, staffing, and telecommunications. One week ago, nine local employers participated in two days of mock interviews, preparing each trainee with additional opportunies to hone an important aspect of getting a job, helping them with the nuances necessary for success.

Yesterday, 13 proud trainees were awarded credentials indicating completion of the seven standards of the curriculum at a ceremony at The Green Ladle, Lewiston Regional Tech Center's new culinary arts center.

All in attendance (which included several local businesses) could clearly see how pleased these trainees were of their efforts and the significant progress they had made. In fact, one young lady expressed her thoughts about the program by saying that completing the training was like moving from "darkness into light."

Funding for this program, as well as a second pilot to be offered in early 2009 came from Maine's Department of Labor, as well as Coastal Enterprises, Inc.; significant in-kind support also was contributed by the various partners, and members of Lewiston/Auburn's business community.

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