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Creating pathways to employment in Maine

Portland Adult Education’s programs provide education, workforce training and even computers for members of the community — including many immigrants

Each year at Portland Adult Education (PAE) in Portland, Maine, more than 2,000 students take advantage of programs in workforce training, English as a second language, high school equivalency credentialing and college prep. A significant percentage of these students are professionals, many of them coming from African nations such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Burundi and Rwanda.

“Most of these students come with a level of education and experience, but not much knowledge of the American workplace culture or employment system,” says PAE Executive Director Abbie Yamamoto, who as an international student herself experienced the need to adjust to the United States. For those enrolled in PAE’s programs, improving language skills and preparing for employment opportunities or college can provide a way forward.

PAE’s workforce training program and the New Mainers Resource Center offer six- to 16-week classes, certificate programs, employer partnerships and career services, with the goal of creating job pathways for students that reflect their previous experience and training. “Our classes are tailored to professionals ready to make a transition to a new cultural environment or new field,” Yamamoto says.

To accommodate students who struggle with transportation or child care, PAE offers remote options — more than 40% of its 330 classes are online or hybrid. But for many attending classes remotely, technology can present another insurmountable obstacle. The nonprofit Friends of Portland Adult Education — which provides PAE with funding for scholarships, technology needs, workplace training and more — has helped students stay connected to critical professional development classes with electronic devices they can borrow and Wi-Fi hotspots.

By facilitating access to technology and supporting workforce development programs, the Friends of Portland Adult Education is helping this population of immigrants stay in school and move toward the dreams that brought them to the United States in the first place. Funds from Bank of America have supported the purchase of Chromebooks and, more recently, the enhancement of PAE’s workforce training and career services. “I can’t emphasize enough how invaluable private sector support like Bank of America’s is to our work,” Yamamoto says. 

From entrepreneur funding and expanding homeownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s important challenges.


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