Sunday, June 14, 2009

No need to reinvent the wheel

Apparently it takes a celebrity attorney to advance workforce development in Maine. At least that’s the explanation I’ve come up with for why F. Lee Bailey is coming to our fair state to talk about a workforce training program for offenders that’s been successful in Minnesota.

Bailey will be coming to Maine next week and speaking at the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues Breakfast about a program that trains inmates while they are in prison and then places them in jobs with sponsoring companies.

Interestingly, Maine already has a program that’s been test marketed for the past three years with increasing success (and without any celebrity fanfare). It’s called WorkReady™, and I’ve posted numerous times about the program over the past few years on this blog.

While the program wasn’t developed specifically as an inmate job development tool, the program has been offered three times at the Maine Correctional Center, and currently is being offered to 10 residents of the new Somerset County Jail, in Madison.

I’m sure Bailey’s program has merit, but WorkReady™ has proven its mettle and is now time-tested, with over 250 credentialed graduates from the program across the state of Maine, all of them able to demonstrate their work readiness and ability to provide value for Maine employers. In fact, we partner with over 50 various companies across the state, including LL Bean, Cianbro, Manpower, ING, Bonney Staffing, TD Banknorth, as well as other diverse employers.

For the uninitiated, WorkReady™ began as a pilot program in Lewiston, under the watchful eye and care of the Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board. Over the past 18 months, the program has expanded from its regional roots and is now offered along Maine’s coast, in the Bangor area, and has even gained a foothold in the far reaches of northern Aroostook County.

Our Somerset County Jail program began May 26 and last week, I participated, along with eight local employers in a day of mock interviews with the 10 trainees enrolled.

Our facilitator for the program, Kathleen Lewia, a veteran of several WorkReady™ programs in Skowhegan, Pittsfield, and Waterville, commented that this group has been the most motivated of any group she’s worked with.

“They’ve been asking me to give them extra homework,” said Lewia.

Given the short-term nature of most sentences in the county jails, WorkReady™ can provide residents with some tangible skills and make a difference, allowing them to leave jail with hope for a better future.

1 comment:

Richard said...

As you aptly point out, Maine has an innovative and applied program to assist inmates. I had the good fortune to assess the WorkReady program at the Maine Correctional Center and found the inmates not only acquired job related skills, they also gained in self-esteem, found new motivation to avoid crime when released, were able to talk with good eye contact (that one inmate said would never be the case before WorkReady) and other positive skills that will help them when released. I anticipate this program will reduce the number who reengage in crime, a most positive benefit to the inmate and the citizens of Maine. Coupled with job interview training and practice, this is a winning program. Richard Lumb