Wednesday, November 19, 2008

WorkReady in Waterville

Yesterday morning, I had the privilege of being in Waterville and seeing nine candidates receive their WorkReady credentials, having successfully completed the 60-hour, three-week course, wonderfully facilitated once again by the gifted Kathleen Lewia. Kathleen also facilitated our recent WorkReady in Pittsfield, for laid-off San Antonio Shoes’ workers.

The program in Waterville was our first offering of WorkReady in this city of just over 15,000, located in Northern Kennebec County. The impetus behind bringing our workforce board in to coordinate the recruitment of businesses, and gathering various community partners, came from Kim Lindlof, president of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, John Butera, executive director for the Central Maine Growth Council, and Ken Young, executive director of the Kennebec Council of Governments. Their interest in WorkReady was a result of a determination they made, after consulting with local business leaders in greater-Waterville that workforce development is a key component in Waterville’s (and the region's) future growth.

Our graduation was held in the heart of downtown, at the Center, which formerly was Sterns Department store, for those old enough to remember. The building is now a mixed-use building with retail space, professional offices, a theater, a dance studio, meeting rooms, and an indoor playground. REM, a downtown grassroots non-profit housed at The Center, rents out the Forum, which we used for our graduation. With its large window, looking out onto Main Street, providing us with abundant natural light, the space was a wonderful venue for our first graduation.

[Group photo of the WorkReady graduates]

WorkReady continues to provide a foundational first step for many low wage/low skill workers, as well as others transitioning from under-employment, or unemployment, into viable work opportunities. Programs like the one in Waterville, under Kathleen Lewia’s tutelage, also help get at some of the root self-image and presentation issues that often plague significant portions of our potential workforce, keeping them from realizing their full potential.

[Kathleen Lewia shares her thoughts about WorkReady]

[Graduate Heaven Love speaks eloquently about what WorkReady meant to the group]

The employer community was supportive our initial effort, with the following employers providing in-kind support by participating in our mock interview day, the week before:

Kennebec Valley Council of Governments
Bonney Staffing
Mid-State Machine
Global Card Services of Pittsfield
The Hampton Inn of Waterville

Other community partners that were particularly supportive and made the program a success were Mid-Maine Regional Adult and Community Education, which delivered our curriculum and coordinated instruction. The United Way of Mid-Maine graciously provided classroom space for our program. Coastal Enterprises, Incorporated provided partial funding for the program.

A special thanks is extended to Nikki Desjardins of the Hampton Inn, for her efforts in helping with recruitment, as well as spreading the word throughout the employer community. Nikki also helped connect me with key community partners. She has become an ambassador for WorkReady in Waterville.

Tonya Clark of T-Mobile has also been an enthusiastic supporter of our first pilot.

WorkReady has been and continues to be a collaborative effort in each community where it finds success. I am optimistic about the program’s long-term future in Waterville, given our first run through.


Patte Bowman said...

Congratulations on another successful WorkReady!

Mary LaFontaine said...

WorkReady is a great program; I'm glad you have been able to duplicate it throughout central and western Maine! Congratulations to you, the graduates, and Adult Education for making it happen. A huge thanks to our businesses that support WorkReady--the program wouldn't be possible without you!