Apprenticeship program celebrated

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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - For the last three years, Maine's unemployment rate has been at an all time low.

But companies still need employees.

One way they are finding and training them is through the Maine Department of Labor's Apprenticeship Program.

Tuesday in Bangor, the success of the program was celebrated.

"Apprenticeship is going to help solve our workforce challenge issue here in our state and in other states as well, but in Maine, with unemployment as low as it is, it really helps to attract, train, and retain your incumbent work force and also to find new hires." said Joan Dolan the Director of Apprenticeship & Strategic Partnership for the Maine Department of Labor.

November was National Apprenticeship month. The program started in the 1940s in Maine, but it has grown and improved to the point where it provides a service both for the work force and business owners.

According to Tracey Coooley the Center Director of Penobscot Job Corps one of the Apprenticeship sponsors recognized at Tuesday's celebration "It's a win-win for both the persons participating in apprenticeship, it's a national credential giving them certain hours towards a field, and it's a win for the employer because they get reimbursed for part of their training expenses"

"With the shortage that we're facing right now throughout the country, employers can't not invest in the skills of their team members. That's their future ultimately." said Dan Coffey the Manager of the Cianbro Institute in Pittsfield.

In just the construction field alone, there are currently 500,000 openings nationally for skilled workers. Learning as an apprentice is a way to get those jobs filled.

"There are some skills gaps between what people know and what employers need them to know," added Dolan. "And apprenticeship is really a strategy to help fill those skill gaps."

"That whole cycle of learning and applying it, learning and applying it, it's proven to show strong results," said Coffey. "These folks grow incredibly fast in their knowledge by doing it that way, and yeah, we've had tremendous success with it."

The Apprenticeship program is put on by the Maine Department of Labor and combines 2000 hours of on the job training, with 144 hours of classroom training.

In some cases it can take one year other jobs may take more than that.

There are still gaps in the workforce and programs like this can address them and help Mainers in many ways.

"Once we place a student with a system like Acadia Hospital or Northern Light that puts them on a trajectory to be out of poverty," said Cooley.

"These are an opportunity for people to get out there, learn the skills and provide for their families," added Coffey.

Dolan believes "Apprenticeship is a way to structure that learning and to get yourself in to a good middle class job."

"It's a great way too to develop people within the state of Maine, keep them in the state and our economy is going to feel the effects of that," said Coffey.