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September 21, 2018

New video spotlights Maine Apprenticeship Program

Screenshot Courtesy Maine Department of Labor
Screenshot Courtesy Maine Department of Labor
Joan Dolan, director of apprenticeships and strategic partnerships at the Maine Department of Labor, appears in a new video that aims to raise awareness about the Maine Apprenticeship Program among employers.

Enlightening employers about the Maine Apprenticeship Program is the goal of a new video posted on Youtube and elsewhere.

Though the Maine Department of Labor program has been around since the early 1940s, it is still "one of the best-kept secrets we have in our state," Joan Dolan, the department's director of apprenticeships and strategic partnerships, told Mainebiz.

The video "is a way to raise people's awareness that this program exists" and that there's some potential for reimbursement of training costs, she said.

"In these times when unemployment is so low and the skills gap seems to not be closing, apprenticeship is a good solution for many businesses and pretty much any occupation," she added.

Just over three-and-a-half minutes long, the video opens with Dolan explaining that the program works with employers to help them fill their workforce needs. It includes testimonials from representatives of Bath Iron Works, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and Boyne Resorts, owner of the Sunday River and Sugarloaf ski areas, touting the programs' benefits and showing the variety of participating industries.

Currently, Dolan said there are 92 employer sponsors of apprenticeships.

While historically sponsors have been single businesses, she said that recently the MDOL has been registering groups like the Maine Energy Marketers Association, which joined last week.

According to the MDOL's online program guide, participating employers must provide a safe on-the-job learning environment, expose and allow the apprentice to learn and practice all of the skills prescribed in the standards, and provide incremental wage increases as the apprentice gains proficiency and completes course requirements.

Structured on-the-job learning is supplemented with technical and theoretical course work, which Dolan says can be done up front or dispersed throughout the apprenticeship period, which can run from one to five years.

"It's a really flexible program and can be designed to meet the employer's needs," Dolan underscored.

She also highlighted the diversity of occupations suited to apprenticeships from childcare specialists to cooks, nurses and funeral workers, noting that "it's all over the place."

As the agency continues to spread the word about the apprenticeship program, it's developing pre-apprenticeship programs for high schoolers so that "we can engage those kids before they graduate in meaningful careers," Dolan said.

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