LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Nine students were members of the first Mobile Outreach Skills Training program just before Christmas, learning much desired and needed manufacturing skills during the intensive two week course.
The students were guaranteed jobs with WahlcoMetroflex, helping make diverters, dampers and expansion joints for customers in the power generation, petrochemical, and pulp and paper industry.
Now, six months later, seven of those students remain on the job, earning a decent living and plugging gaps in the company's workforce.
"We do get a fair amount of applications, but it is the qualified people that are scarce," explained Don Mondor, WahlcoMetroflex' manufacturing manager. "We are looking for people that can hit the ground running within a fairly short period of time, because of what we do."
"Realistically, we didn't expect to get nine people that would retain and stay, so we were surprised that we got seven. We expected two, maybe three because it was a pilot program that was new to this trade and this state."
"The first time I came in to take my welding test, was the first time I ever held a torch in my hand," admitted Jim Windover, one of the program's graduates.
Windover says the 80 hours of coursework, crammed into two weeks time was intense, but it allowed him to make a career change in a fairly short amount of time.
He says the program is worth while for people looking to make a change, or struggling to find a good paying job, and helps employers fill stubborn vacancies at the same time.
"They should jump on the bus, cause I mean, it's amazing what they can do with this program," he stated. "You are taking somebody that has never had any knowledge in the field at all and then you put them right in the factory setting, and it gives them a head start. They are not coming in not knowing a thing, they are coming is so you can actually use them."
On June 6th, the MOST training unit will visit the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber from 11 to 3 in an effort to get more employers interested in trying the program to meet their employment needs.
"The Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership MOST program helped turn around the lives of the trainees," said Bruce Pukkinen, Chair of the Maine MEP Board of Directors. "It gave them a fresh start and new skills. Best of all, it gave them a job and hope for the future."
"We're proud of the record MOST has in putting unemployed workers back on their feet," continued Pulkkinen. "We hope more Maine manufacturers take advantage of this unique program and use it to attract the kind of motivated workers that every growing company needs. It's a great training resource that every Maine manufacturer should utilize when they're thinking of hiring new employees."
"One of the reasons MOST has been successful is because of the effort MEP staff put into finding job applicants who are a good fit for the company. We carefully screen candidates, so that our trainees have the kind of initiative and commitment that will make them successful in the job. They may not have the skills that the manufacturer requires. That's our job - to give them the skills that will enable them to perform. But they all have the attitude and the desire to work and learn new skills, so that they will be an asset to their new employer. It's one of the reasons that the program has such a strong employee retention rate."