LEWISTON – The New Mainers Workforce Partnership-L/A, composed of a group of community partners that came together to offer the area’s first ready-to-work program for non-English speakers, held a graduation ceremony on Oct. 21 at The Green Ladle, Lewiston Regional Tech Center’s culinary arts facility.

All 13 participants were awarded credentials signifying they were ready for work, completing a demanding 120-hour curriculum over a six-week period. Components of the training were oriented specifically toward participants with limited English proficiency, limited work histories, and the desire to acquire the requisite 21st century skills employers are looking for in workers.

The pilot was a direct response to workforce needs identified in the Report on Employment Patterns of Somali Immigrants released in May, by the Maine State Planning Office and the Maine Department of Labor. This pilot also served as an example of how community-based workforce development has the faculties and agility to quickly pull together a localized response to larger, macro issues outlined in the report.

The collaborating partners included the Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board, Lewiston Adult Education, Coastal Enterprises Inc., the Lewiston CareerCenter (representing Maine Department of Labor), Catholic Charities of Maine, DHHS/ASPIRE, and STTAR.

Funding for the pilot and a second one scheduled for early 2009 came from the Maine Department of Labor, as well as Coastal Enterprises Inc. Additional in-kind support was provided by the participating partners, as well as area businesses. Participating business partners were Bonney Staffing, Manpower, ING, L.L. Bean, the Lewiston School Department, Staff Management, and Oxford Networks.

Key aspects of the program included a weekly guest speaker from the area business community, a field trip to a recent job fair, two days of mock interviews with area employers, and four hours per day, five days per week, for six weeks, speaking, writing, and processing information in English, with an emphasis on workplace language skills.

For information about the upcoming program and the application process, contact Jim Baumer, at 753-9026.

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