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March 21, 2024

Vermont staffing agency offering second chances opens a Maine office in Auburn

sign on wall and door Courtesy / Working Fields An unusual staffing agency, Working Fields, already has people coming into its new Maine office, in Auburn. .

Working Fields, a mission-based staffing agency with a peer-support model, has launched a Maine office to serve job seekers and employers.

The agency, headquartered in South Burlington, Vt., has opened a branch at 95 Main St., Auburn.

“Working Fields’ history of serving employers in need of a qualified workforce while simultaneously providing workforce counseling and peer support to residents has proven highly impactful in other states,” said Glen Holmes, Auburn’s director of business and community development. "They will be a welcome addition to the Auburn business community."

brick building with signs and brick sidewalk
Courtesy / Working Fields
Working Fields, a mission-based staffing agency with a peer support model, opened its first Maine office in space provide by Auburn's business and community development department, at 95 Main St.

In some ways, Working Fields’ business model is like that of other staffing agencies that connect employers with potential employees.

“However, after that we’re completely different,” Mickey Wiles, the company’s CEO and founder, told Mainebiz.

Job seekers, he said, come to Working Fields with experiences that are often barriers to employment. The applicants are referred by substance recovery programs, sober homes, treatment centers, homeless shelters and justice-involvement programs.

“They’ll send them to us knowing we can place them in a job and, once we do, we support them with peer coaching,” Wiles said.

Traditional staffing agencies, he said, look at resumes and job experience. Working Fields asks those questions, but also spends time understanding each person’s situation, including things like their housing and transportation, he said.

Second chances

Wiles developed the concept in 2016, based on his own experiences, including in business leadership and in recovery services such as peer coaching, according to his biography.

His leadership roles started with Boston high-tech firm Microcom Inc. In Vermont, he continued in leadership roles at Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation and Burlington Labs. He also held the position as executive director of the Turning Point Center of Chittenden County, in Burlington, Vt. Before starting his business career, he served six years in the U.S. Navy.

As a person in long-term recovery, he was provided a second chance after spending time in federal prison. For the last 19 years Wiles has dedicated his work to helping others who need a second chance after addiction, criminal convictions or other barriers.

Working Fields looks to remove barriers to employment for job-seekers and employers, and has offices in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and now Maine.

The approach promotes inclusive hiring practices and long-term retention. Working Fields has partnered with over 2,300 jobseekers, 300 community organizations, and more than 125 employers.

The agency works closely with employers, too. Account managers then match jobseekers to the right job that will set them up for success the most. 

“We want to put people in an environment where they can be successful,” he said.

The agency assigns peer coaches who provide regular services. 

After starting the agency in Vermont, “We found this model was unique and fairly innovative and started having success in the Burlington area,” Wiles said.

Now Working Fields has grown to five offices — two in Vermont, One each in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and now Auburn.

“There are plenty of agencies out there that give job training and help people with jobs,” he said. “And there are recovery centers that provide recovery coaching. But there’s no one doing all of that together in a complete package.”

Employers and positions include hospitals, call centers, recycling centers, production, manufacturing, cleaning and warehousing as low-barrier entry jobs, with some positions that are more sophisticated. 

The model allows employees to work their way up, he added.

The agency’s business development team works on connecting with potential employers and also sets up at job fairs.

“In Vermont, we have companies calling us now,” Wiles said. “We’re a known entity. That’s the goal in other areas.”

Auburn office

After opening its Auburn office in January, the agency is now close to signing its first couple of employers and has been connecting with social service organizations.

Working Fields recently brought on two employees to help connect job seekers and employers through direct service and to develop employer and partner relationships. Jagos Medenica was hired as business development manager and Jenna Andrews was hired as an account manager.

person in blue blazer and white buttondown shirt
Courtesy / Working Fields
Jagos Medenica

Medenica will grow relationships and more opportunities for fair chance employment throughout Maine and New Hampshire. Andrews will support individuals as they re-enter the workforce through a person-first approach.

“The welcome in the Lewiston/Auburn area has been incredible,” said Wiles.

person in white jack and green blouse
Courtesy / Working Fields
Jenna Andrews

“People are coming to the door already. We’ve got people we can put into jobs. So that’s well on its way.”

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