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Job market re-entry: Portland Adult Education graduates 1st WorkReady class

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Job market re-entry: Portland Adult Education graduates 1st WorkReady class

PORTLAND — Out of work for more than a year, Beth Treadwell decided to polish her resume and job skills through a new program being offered by Portland Adult Education.

On Friday, March 5, the 46-year-old South Portland resident was one of 16 graduates of PAE's WorkReady program, which was funded through a nearly $4,500 grant from Coastal Counties Workforce. 

Gail Senese, co-director of PAE, said the first-ever graduating class would always have a special place in her heart.

"I feel like our babies are ready to take flight," Senese said.

The WorkReady program was taught by Allen Lampert, who has been with PAE since 1996. Lampert worked about 80 hours with students, whose ages range from 21 to 60 and whose backgrounds are equally diverse.

Students of the program, he said, included a social worker with decades of experience, a China-born and -educated accountant, and former prison inmates, each united in their quest to become more competitive in a 21st century job market.

"With the job situation, they have struggled to find work," Lampert said, noting the course is free to students. "We hope (WorkReady) will give them a step up."

Although adult education typically loses a few students throughout the year, Lampert said all 16 students who started the WorkReady program graduated.

Only one student missed the graduation, he said, because that student got a job at Idexx Labratories through the program, which partnered with state Department of Labor, the Career Center, Coastal Enterprises and Goodwill of Northern New England.

Besides improving computer and interview skills and polishing their resumes, students were also able to make valuable person-to-person connections, Lampert said, through partnerships with Powerpay, Rock Coast Staffing, TD Bank, ProSearch, Wright Express, Blue Tarp, Bonnet Staffing, Manpower, Acadia Insurance and Dead River Co.

"That networking gives these students a huge tactical advantage," Lampert said. "They never would have had this access if they were just applying online."

The program helped student Dominick Rizzo of Portland get comfortable searching and applying for jobs online.

"Since I last sent out my resume, it's a whole new world," 52-year-old said of the decade that has passed. "It was a little frustrating."

Rizzo moved from Massachusetts to Bucksport to start a solar-powered bed-and-breakfast inn. But soon after the business was established, the recession hit, forcing him back into the job market. He eventually moved to Portland, where he began taking WorkReady classes. 

Rizzo said it was difficult to adjust to online applications. If he needed work in Provincetown, Mass., he would rely on a human network, rather than a fiberoptic one.

"When I worked in a small town, you went up to people or a business and they saw your face and would talk to you and hire you that way," he said. "People knew one another."

Stanley Mothersil, 28, said the program allowed him to put a troubled past behind him and begin working toward a brighter future.

"Before I started this class, I was at home going through the motions daily and not being a productive individual," said Mothersil, who was one of two student graduation speakers. "This class has given me the motivation to succeed again. It has given me the drive to be a better citizen."

During his address to the class, Lampert said the graduates have already proved an important attribute to prospective employers: that they can show up every day, work hard and never give up.

"That in the world of work is game, set and match," Lampert said.

Meanwhile, Senese reminded graduates that they still had a tough road ahead and urged them to remain optimistic, even though it still may be difficult to find a job.

"Monday morning, when you wake up and the phone hasn't rung with that great job offer," she said, "just remember: You can do hard things. We have faith in you."

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net