New fast-track training program aims to help Maine schools fill staff shortages

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 6:26 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Schools are back in session.

But with just a couple of weeks down, many are still dealing with staffing shortages, including educational technicians.

“I think that it’s really a great way to not only fill the positions in the classrooms but really to provide the schools with skilled professionals,” said Erica Bernier, Learning Facilitator Program teachers assistant.

Bernier is one of hundreds of students who have completed the Learning Facilitator Program.

The fast-track training program, which is done mostly online, is for paraprofessional level educators and designed to help Maine schools fill critical staff shortages.

The Learning Facilitator Program at Eastern Maine Community College is in partnership with the Maine Department of Education. The program does require commitment for one full academic year, but there’s no cost to those who are enrolled.

“It’s a micro-credential program, but really, it’s just a combination of credit baring coursework and then competency-based coursework and apprenticeship hours in a classroom,” said Megan London, Eastern Maine Community College education department chair.

Participants who complete the program are eligible to receive an Ed Tech III through the Maine Department of Education.

“Often, there is a place for them in special education working one-on-one with students. So, that’s a high need area as well for Ed. Tech III’s in that higher level of qualification,” London said.

“The program itself supports the work that people are doing in the schools, so what they’re learning in the program, they’re able to apply in the classroom,” Bernier said.

For some students, the program is opening new doors for those who want to continue their post-secondary education.

Bernier enrolled at the height of the pandemic, just as the program was rolling out.

She had an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Now, she has a master’s degree from the University of New England.

“We actually see a lot of learners that come through the program, and they complete and then decide they want to go back to school and finish their degree. They want to be a classroom teacher, so the program gives them the confidence to take on that risk that they may not have otherwise done prior to,” Bernier said.

The program has grown immensely in the last few years.

There’s 180 students currently enrolled with more than 200 on a waiting list.

Instructors say there’s plenty of support available to those who are interested in working in education or just want to further develop their existing skill set.

“I think the biggest thing people need to know is that there are people here who want them here and to be in the field. We’re ready to help them figure out their pathway to that,” London said.

To apply you must be a Maine resident, 18 years of age before the start of the course, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and you must have a clean criminal record.

More information on the Learning Facilitator Program can be found here.