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Governor Mills announces $25 million Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan program to offer paid work experiences to Maine students

Career Exploration program to connect 6,000 young people with paid opportunities at Maine employers to strengthen Maine’s workforce

Bath, MAINE Governor Janet Mills today announced the Maine Career Exploration program, a $25 million, two-year initiative of her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to connect 6,000 young people in Maine to future career opportunities by funding paid work experiences with employers across the state.

Through offering paid work experiences for Maine young people aged 16-24, the Maine Career Exploration program will enable thousands of students to enter the labor force in fields of their interest through work opportunities with Maine employers. In addition to work experience, students may also earn education credits through the program.

The Maine Career Exploration program is a recommendation of Maine’s 10-year Economic Development Strategy (PDF), unveiled by Governor Mills in 2019, to support Maine’s goal of adding 75,000 workers to Maine’s workforce by 2030. The program is led by the Department of Economic and Community Development in partnership with the Department of Education, Department of Labor, and the Governor’s Children Cabinet.

Governor Mills speaking at Morse High School in Bath

The Governor announced the Maine Career Exploration program today at Morse High School in Bath. Bath, Brunswick, and Topsham schools have used Jobs Plan funds to create a Regional Internship Program, in partnership with the Midcoast Chamber of Commerce, to provide students with work-based learning experiences at local businesses.

“Through the Maine Career Exploration program, high school students will gain meaningful, hands-on work experiences at local businesses that will prepare them to succeed in careers right here in Maine, strengthening our workforce over the long-term,” said Governor Janet Mills. “My Administration will continue to address Maine’s longstanding workforce shortage by making sure our students have the skills, and our businesses have the workers, that they need to succeed.”

“Our state needs to add 75,000 new workers by the end of the decade to keep our economy strong. Preparing Maine students for success in the workforce is a key part of achieving that goal,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic & Community Development. “Maine Career Exploration will introduce thousands of Maine students to future employment options, giving them real world work experience and supporting our business community at the same time.”

“By expanding real-world, engaging learning opportunities with Maine employers, the Career Exploration program will help students explore career options, develop critical work and life skills, and plan for their futures," said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Department of Education. “These opportunities are also important for strengthening Maine's workforce and building connections between schools and local businesses.”

"The mission of JMG is to identify students who face barriers to education, and to guide each one on to a successful path toward continued education, a meaningful career, and productive adulthood," said Craig Larrabee, JMG President and CEO. "Our commitment is to equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With this funding, JMG will support more than 4,000 high school juniors and seniors, throughout all sixteen counties of the state, in engaging with Maine's employers to gain meaningful workforce experience."

“This funding will significantly enhance the quality of our Mt. Ararat High School Community Pathways program. Most importantly, we will be positioned to provide many more meaningful and engaging learning experiences to support students in pursuing their dreams, interests, passions, and aspirations,” said Douglas Ware, Community Learning Coordinator at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham.

“Governor Mills and her administration saw the workforce need, heard from the businesses and the schools, and made the incredible choice to invest in some of Maine’s best problem solvers - our teachers, administrators and business leaders,” said Cory King, Executive Director of the Midcoast Chamber of Commerce. “The investment into this program through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan is helping make this concept of paid, meaningful work for students a possibility.”

The Career Exploration program has three primary components:

Awards to Schools and School Districts

The Maine Department of Education has awarded over $5.6 million to 26 school districts, schools, adult education programs, and higher education institutions to create or expand extended learning opportunities for students, which include paid work experiences.

Examples of these efforts include:

  • The Aroostook County Action Program and Eastern Maine Development Corporation will provide paid work experiences to youth in northern and eastern Maine. Career Exploration funds will be used to strengthen and expand existing workforce & training programs through new employer partnerships, reaching students who do not qualify for existing programs, and offering support services to address transportation and technology needs.
  • In RSU 13 in Rockland, students will explore different career paths and learn basic job-seeking skills and financial literacy. Following these classes, students will participate in 10-week internships with local businesses.
  • Telstar Middle High School in Bethel will develop workforce opportunities for students in grades 9-12. These include job shadowing, career immersions with employers, credit-earning experiences, career camps during school breaks, and local internship programs.

Jobs for Maine Graduates

  • Funding from the Career Exploration Program will support expansion of extended learning opportunities, paid work experiences, and coaching now offered by Jobs for Maine Graduates for rising juniors and seniors at 90 high schools in Maine.

Community-Based Organizations

  • Through the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, five community-based organizations in Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Penobscot, and Aroostook counties will help disadvantaged young people access meaningful paid work opportunities and valuable employment experience.

The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governor’s plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to improve the lives of Maine people and families, help businesses, create good-paying jobs, and build an economy poised for future prosperity.

In the last year since the Jobs Plan took effect, the Mills Administration has delivered direct economic relief to nearly 1,000 Maine small businesses, supported more than 100 infrastructure projects around the state to create jobs and revitalize communities, and invested in workforce programs estimated to offer apprenticeship, career and education advancement, and job training opportunities to 22,000 Maine people.

Read a full report of the Jobs Plan’s investments in the past year here. For more about Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, visit maine.gov/jobsplan.