Maine’s system lands $75.5M donation for short-term workforce training


Maine community colleges’ efforts to tackle workforce shortages got a huge boost Thursday thanks to a $75.5 million investment by the Harold Alfond Foundation that will help the state’s two-year colleges provide free or discounted workforce training to 70,500 students by 2030.

“This is truly a transformational investment that will directly benefit Mainers and Maine businesses across the state,” David Daigler, president of the Maine Community College System (MCCS), said in a release. “Maine faces persistent workforce shortages across all industries and age groups, and employers are desperate for skilled workers, fast. These programs, developed side-by-side with Maine employers large and small, give Maine workers free access to the skills they need to enter and progress in today’s workforce.”

Maine Gov. Janet Mills joins officials from the Maine Community College System and the Harold Alfond Foundation to announce the foundation’s $75.5 million donation to support Maine community colleges’ short-term training efforts. (Photo: MCCS)

The grant, which is the largest the state system has ever received, is the third from HAF over the past six year. The foundation awarded the community college system’s foundation $3.6 million in 2018, followed by $15.5 million in 2021. In total, HAF has invested nearly $100 million to train 100,000 people, according to the college system.

MCCS said the second HAF grant, in combination with $35 million in pandemic relief funds through the state, launched the system’s roster of short-term workforce training programs, overseen by the system’s new Harold Alfond Center for the Advancement of Maine’s Workforce. Since 2022, more than 26,000 students have taken short-term workforce training classes through the center, MCCS said.

System leaders said the training has three components: basic occupational skills training for people looking to enter a field or career; upgraded skills training for current workers to keep up with industry needs; and scholarships for workers who want to earn an associate degree or certificate.

“These programs are critical to building Maine’s skilled workforce, and we’ve seen outstanding results at Maine’s community colleges in recent years,” said Greg Powell, chair of the Harold Alfond Foundation.

MCCS noted the short-term workforce training programs are crucial because they typically take only days, weeks or months to complete, and are free or discounted for the students. In addition, they are offered on a rolling basis throughout the year, onsite at the colleges, at workplaces, online and through third-party, industry-approved instruction, according to the system.

One of the longest-running short-term programs is in welding, which comes with a guaranteed interview at Bath Iron Works, a $500/week “earn while you learn” incentive, and campus housing for some students, MCCS observed. Dozens of short-term healthcare programs are also available, including four-week-long phlebotomy classes, six-month advanced EMT classes, and nine-month-long medical assistant programs.

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