Opinion

New apprenticeships open career pathways beyond the trades

By David Pease and Hannah Greene

We recognize and celebrate the week of Nov. 13 as National Apprenticeship Week by lifting up new and robust Maine registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship models that are exciting entry points to many career pathways, some of which are new and unexpected.  

This year, Bangor Savings Bank and Educate Maine, with support from the Maine Department of Labor, have created Maine’s first payroll specialist registered apprenticeship program. It exemplifies how today’s registered apprenticeship and certified pre-apprenticeship programs are moving beyond just trade occupations. These programs are opening doors to careers in various dynamic and in-demand fields – like financial services.

In this partnership, beginning in early 2024, Bangor Savings Bank will collaborate with Educate Maine, United Technologies Center, Eastern Maine Community College, and others to hire apprentices to work in their Bangor Payroll division as payroll specialists. Learners will be paid $19 per hour and will work with subject matter experts and mentors who will teach on-the-job skills that will lead to a Fundamental Payroll Certification. This one-year (2,000-hour) in-house training program includes gaining proficiency in needed essential skills, such as teamwork, communication, and collaboration, as well as industry standards in payroll entry and processing, documentation, record-keeping, data reporting, and state-of-the-art client services.  

This partnership is creating a new feeder system for the payroll industry, which is in great need of more trained workers. For example, as just one employer, Bangor Payroll needs to hire three to six payroll specialists every six to eight weeks. Bangor Payroll is a leading provider of payroll services that support businesses of all sizes in Northern New England and beyond. It’s a specialized market crucial for the success of many businesses across our state. 

This payroll specialist apprenticeship is a win-win-win. It’s a win for learners who gain marketable skills, an industry credential, and a jumpstart into the workplace. It’s a win for Bangor Payroll and Bangor Savings Bank by providing motivated and skilled workers already familiar with their business operations and staff to fill openings. And it’s a win for Maine’s workforce development and, thus, our economy.  

Educate Maine provides employers with technical assistance in creating, implementing, and overseeing registered apprenticeship programs. With Educate Maine serving as an intermediary sponsor, more businesses are jumping in and creating their own workforce pipelines. Maine’s demographics are making this a necessity.  

Maine, like a growing number of states, currently has more job openings than qualified applicants to fill them. Maine received a “most severe” rating on the U. S. Chamber of Commerce’s Worker Shortage Index, with only 49 available workers for every 100 open jobs.

At the same time, Maine has adopted the educational attainment goal that, by 2025, 60 percent of adults will hold postsecondary credentials of value. While we and many others in our state have been working hard to help achieve this goal; currently, only 55 percent of adults hold postsecondary credentials of value. And the 2025 deadline inches closer daily.

 We believe strongly in innovative partnerships like ours, which focus on building critical skills in specific high-need industries as early as high school to prepare learners to succeed in our economy and to provide the motivation and vision to see themselves in various careers. 

The registered apprenticeship program is one of Bangor Savings Bank’s and Educate Maine’s partnership initiatives focused on workforce development innovation. Another is the Maine Career Catalyst internship enrichment program, in which Bangor Savings has enrolled summer interns in professional development and peer and industry networking events. Additionally, for many years, the bank has sponsored Educate Maine’s Maine Teacher of the Year Program. 

Organizations and programs can find ways to solve our workforce’s skill deficits and labor shortages. It is important to partner with many players, continuously and across the state, to create the innovation needed to have a significant impact on growing and improving our talent pool, which is critical to a prosperous future for our citizens and Maine’s economy.

Pease is senior vice president and director of talent, diversity and inclusion at Bangor Savings Bank. Greene is workforce development specialist with Maine Career Catalyst and Educate Maine.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.