Monday, August 31, 2009

Top places to work in Maine

The Maine State Council of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has announced that 31 companies have been named in the fourth annual "Best Places to Work in Maine" program. From this list the first, second and third rankings for small/medium sized company category and large company category will be announced at an awards banquet on October 13, 2009, at the Ramada Conference Center in Lewiston. The awards banquet will include a keynote address from motivational speaker, Jay Wallus.

The 2009 Best Places to Work in Maine program is sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, with endorsing partners that include Best Companies Group, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Employment Times, and Mainebiz, and recognizes companies that have established and consistently fostered outstanding workplace environments.

Some of the companies recognized include Androscoggin Bank of Lewiston, Maine Eyecare Associates of Waterville, T-Mobile, from Oakland, Oxford Networks (Lewiston), and Unum (Portland), to name a few.

Each applicant had to undergo an assessment process, administered by the Best Companies Group, which evaluated each company’s employee policies and procedures as well as responses from the company’s employees. The program marks the most recent step in a long-term initiative to encourage growth and excellence throughout all Maine companies.

Further details about the program, a full list of companies, and additional information about how companies are selected can be found at the “Best Places to Work in Maine” website.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Leadership for ME

Earlier this month, I posted about gubernatorial candidate, Matt Jacobsen. There are several others running for Maine's highest office. While it's still early, I thought I'd put up another post about a Democrat this time, candidate Bruce Poliquin. [Poliquin is actually a Republican, as a commenter has pointed out. Ooops!! I need to keep my parties straight--JB]

Poliquin has several things working in his favor, from my way of thinking. He's bright, has a blog with some worthwhile content, and he was once voted Maine High School Baseball Coach of the Year. As a lifelong baseball freak that carries some weight in my book.

Speaking of blogs, Poliquin has an excellent post on energy policy in Maine, a key determinant of Maine's future vitality and whether businesses in Maine can remain competitive in a global marketplace. Poliquin alludes to something that I've been very aware of, the current administration's fixation on studying a problem, creating reports and studies, and then refusing, or being unable to take steps leading to a clear action plan.

Poliquin had the following to say, from August 25, on the matter:

Governing effectively means making the tough choices that benefit the 1.3 million citizens of Maine. We have a huge opening before us on energy and we need to get moving.

Enough with the planning and studying. We need action and results. An experienced businessman knows that you can plan yourself into bankruptcy if you never act. Likewise, a schooled economist can point out that building out Maine’s power grid and capacity creates a cycle that 1) creates jobs immediately to construct the infrastructure, 2) lowers energy costs, 3) attracts new businesses and jobs because energy costs are lower, 4) lowers the tax burden on individuals by broadening the tax base because there are more businesses in the state.

Infrastructure is only one piece of the puzzle to create jobs in the state.

Poliquin's most recent blog post, from today, takes aim at Governor Baldacci for authorizing the costly use of a helicopter to survey Acadian National Park, where tragedy occurred over the weekend. Maine's second largest newspaper, the Lewiston Sun-Journal took issue with the expense by editorializing that the bill for Baladacci's foray over the seas will be footed by the taxpayers of Maine. And while this trip won't cost a fortune, it has been a difficult year for the state's budget.

Indeed, the state's budget has been out of whack for some time. It's interesting that a governor who finds the solution for the state's budget woes in state furlough days, hiring freezes, and other schemes that negatively impact the citizens of Maine, thinks it's ok to run up needless costs utilizing a helicopter for a tour that has little direct connection to governing the state.

While it's early in the race, I'm intrigued by candidates like Poliquin, who has something to say, and seems to have a clear idea of what's necessary for Maine to move ahead. A change in leadership can't come soon enough for many Mainers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Secretary of Transportation visits AEWC on Monday

Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, visited the Advanced Engineering and Wood Composites Center at UMaine Orono on Monday. As the Industry Liaison for the North Star Alliance, I think this was an important step forward for the center. The AEWC was a lead participant in the writing of the North Star Alliance grant and has been a very important R & D partner in the project. In addition, the support of the Maine Department of Labor and the Governor's office has been incredible as well. Please see the Bangor Daily News article about the Secretary's visit.

The AEWC is a leading research laboratory in composite technology and has developed such innovations has the "bridge-in-a-backpack" technology. I believe this technology is going to take off in the near future and hopefully this visit will spur the federal government to support this technology if it meets national standards. These are light weight arches that can be fabricated on sight, that are harder than steel, though resistant to corrosion, as the article states. This lab has also worked on military applications for high speed boats and ballistic structures that are safer for soldiers,. The AEWC has acted as an incubator for companies and is an important force in the growth of the composites sector in Maine.

The AEWC is an excellent model for the consolidation of education, workforce, economic, and company development in Maine. FMI see the AEWC website for more information about the projects they are working on.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

WorkReady in the news again

[I attempted to embed the video that was on the WCSH-6 website, but to no avail. Here at least is the link that takes you to the site and the video. --JB]

The WorkReady program, a 60 hour soft skills training program that originated in Central/Western Maine was featured this morning on WCSH-6, the NBC affiliate in Portland.

This is the second time in the past 6 months that WorkReady has garnered a news feature on the station, indicating that the program is meeting a specific need, particularly given the economic downturn. In particular, WorkReady has proven that it’s a great program for many displaced workers, people who have been working productively, but have lost their jobs, often for the first time ever.

The program featured took place at York Community College, and was coordinated by Jade Arn, under the auspices of Coastal Counties Workforce, Inc., the workforce investment board for York County and the coastal region of Maine.

WorkReady continues to grow, and is now a statewide program. It provides an important component to developing Maine’s workforce, and providing them with the types of skills the employers require.

FMI about WorkReady, visit the program website.

Upcoming programs will be starting in the Central/Western Maine area this fall, in Waterville (at Kennebec Valley Community College), Oct. 13, and in Lewiston, Oct. 19.

Monday, August 10, 2009

September Composites Training Series in Brunswick

The composites industry in Maine could be growing significantly in the near future with companies moving into composite bridge construction and wind blade manufacturing. Composites are manufactured products that use two materials to make a lighter, stronger component when finished. They are used in boat building, marine, aerospace, and industrial applications. Please visit the Maine Composite Alliance to see what Maine companies are doing with composites. In September, the Maine Advanced Technology Center (part of SMCC) in Brunswick will be holding a series of three courses. With generous support from the North Star Alliance, qualified Career Center referrals will not have to pay a cent for these courses (100% tuition assistance). The courses are:
  • Introduction to Composites: September 9-11

  • Introduction to Closed Mold Technology: September 14-16

  • ACMA Certification, CCT-VIP, Review and Exam: September 18-19

Please see descriptions of these courses and more at the MATC website. With these three courses you will walk away with certification as a certified composite technician. If you have any questions about these courses you can contact Deb Mattson, the Director of the MATC or James Westhoff of the North Star Alliance

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reinvention required

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
--Alvin Toffler

I love Toffler’s quote. In a mere 24 words (and 131 characters, so it’s tweetable), he’s defined the crux of the issue facing us as Americans, one decade into the 21st century. Our ability, or subsequent inability to come to terms with learning, unlearning, and relearning is the fulcrum point that determines our success, or lack of success as individuals, organizations, companies, or governments.

As a nation, America is awash in awareness. We know we’re too fat, performing poorly in the classroom, polluting our environment (and getting warmer all the time), and spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter and other computer applications, while neglecting the still essential face time required in personal interaction. We recognize all the faults in others (co-workers, bosses, significant others), but rarely ever scrutinize our own visage in the mirror.

Our awareness keeps us frozen in a perpetual state of crisis because we have the capacity, but lack the ability to take the all-important step towards action. Action is the spark that ignites activity. Otherwise, we remain forever frozen, buffeted by stress and agitation. I know this story very well, because it used to be my own.

I was a card-carrying member of the awareness fraternity. I could spot problems wherever I went. I also knew the solution to most of these. What kept me stuck was the inability, or better, the lack of willingness to take action. Some of that may have been driven by fear.

It’s not that I didn’t have examples of taking action in my life. In many ways, the volunteer work I did as Little League coach, then president of our local league demonstrated a pattern of completion. On the employment side of things, awareness without action was my track record, however.

About seven years ago, I reinvented myself out of necessity. I had hit a wall in my work and personal life and realized I no longer wanted to keep doing the same things over and over again, expecting that somehow, it would be different this time.

In 2004, I stopped talking about writing a book, and I acted on my idea. When Towns Had Teams became a reality, and I won a national award for my efforts. Taking that step and receiving validation was powerful. A year before that, I set a goal of launching a freelance writing career, and went from nothing in print, to having my name bylined in local and regional publications on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve discovered the ongoing empowerment that comes from setting goals, and meeting them. I went from faking it, to making it. That story is what I use to help motivate others to take action in their own lives.

Action is what separates the talkers from the walkers. Spending hours on internet discussion boards, tilting at the windmills (a Don Quixote reference) of taxes, faulty public schools, and whether President Obama is truly an American citizen makes you a talker. You have awareness of a perceived problem. Good for you. The corner where you reside is always crowded, most often with people that agree with you.

Doers, on the other hand, are action people. They’re part of a lonely band that gets up early, long before the sun is up. They’re the ones that write books instead of talking about how, in five years, they’re finally going to get started on their own book. They usually tell you this when the subject of one of your own books is being discussed. Doers don’t whine in the break room that they need to lose weight, while shoveling in another donut. They determine what they need to do—increase exercise, decrease caloric intake—they just “do it,” as Henry Rollins would scream.

Awareness is useless unless it leads to something tangible. It might mean positive change, or on the other hand, action might lead to a negative initial result, if action involves a manager disciplining a wayward report, or a leader demanding more from his/her troops.

The world if filled with great ideas that have never been acted on. It takes little sacrifice and effort to identify the problem. Moving across the chasm to the solution side is what’s needed.

Action people may start out with the awareness crowd, and in fact, awareness is required before action begins. The difference is that those taking action have little desire, or the time, to spend socializing once awareness is reached. They’ve left the party and are off by themselves rolling the ball uphill.

In my current position, I’ve been watching the awareness crowd for the past three years. Most of them are good people. Their intentions are noble; their hearts are often in the right place. Unfortunately, they become paralyzed by their ideas, unable to decide what first step to take. Locked in their room of awareness, they never leave its comfortable confines. They are perpetually cognizant, but rusted in place, like the Tin Man, in the Wizard of Oz.

Toffler was giving us a charge. Learning, unlearning, and relearning require action. Awareness without action leaves us illiterate, and unsuccessful as citizens of the 21st century.

BTW, if you enjoy the posts here at Working in Maine, think about subscribing. It's easy, painless, and that way, you'll receive an email each time new content is added. Just plug your email into the subscribe by email box over on the toolbar on the right, towards the bottom. Your email is only for subscription purposes only.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Maine's next governor

I've been bored driving into work lately. Without a book on CD to listen to (I've been too busy to get to the library), I'm forced to listen to the warmed over slop that passes for radio in Central Maine.

I must have really been bored to tune in a local political show, when I stopped to listen to Ray Richardson and Ted Talbot on WLOB. I wasn't even aware that they were back on in these parts, as sports talk had usurped their political banter earlier this spring.

These two veteran political talkers had Matt Jacobson on as their guest. Jacobson is one of 22 potential candidates in a crowded field that have either formally declared their intentions (Jacobson has already filed papers), or are contemplating runs for governor.

Given Maine's financial woes, lagging economy, aging workforce, and lack of strategic vision forward, one has to question anyone's state of mind for tossing their hat into the ring. Yet, candidate after candidate keeps coming forward claiming that they have the solution to move Maine forward into the 21st century.

Jacobson was talking about job creation this morning during the 10 minutes, or so that I heard (or barely heard, given WLOB's woeful signal in Lewiston) before pulling into the parking lot at the office. Since Jacobson's schtick with Maine & Company has been enticing businesses to locate here from elsewhere, that would make sense for him. According to Jacobson's website, his vision is for Maine "to compete and win in this new economy. We will build strong communities that attract jobs and families, providing choice and opportunity to our workers. We will create an economic climate in Maine that is competitive with other states and the global economy."

It all sounds good, but as they say, "the devil's in the details."

Some of the details are not so enticing, especially for people that labor in the trenches of workforce development and see how difficult it is to reengage Maine's diverse labor force, many whom have not worked in any meaningful capacity for years. Add to that the segment of the labor force that have lost jobs and need new skills to compete, not to mention trying to engage older, seasoned workers into making their ample skills (albeit, sans technology skills) available for as long as possible, and you have a bit more complexity than political talking points usually provide.

It will be interesting to see how the field gets winnowed down between now and November 2010.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer vacation

It always seems that summer in Maine is one of the toughest times to get any business done. Possibly it's because the summer season is short, and people tend to book their vacation time during this period of time, but emails have slowed to a dribble (other than the usual informational types), phones calls await return, and appointments are difficult to schedule.

Do you think productivity diminishes during the summer months? Are projects on hold at your firm, and are you finding it difficult to connect with decisionmakers during June, July, and August?

On a positive note, summer, or not, the business surveys that are part of the initial phase of a three-year project that seeks to develop training and employment opportunities in the growing transportation, distribution, and logistics sector or cluster, are nearly complete.

I'll be heading out to survey the manager of the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport this morning, which will complete my allotment of surveys I've been tasked to do.