Maine trade group director goes to the White House

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Maine Marine Trades Association executive director Susan Swanton was scheduled to be at the White House today for an event to discuss President Obama’s effort to get companies and industries to hire more long-term unemployed workers.

In an interview with the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, Swanton said, “When you say ‘long-term unemployed’ to a business person, they often think of the chronically unemployed, but the president is talking about those people who have always worked and because the economy went bad, they’re still out of work. These are people who have some skills, but maybe they don’t have the right skills for a different part of the work force. So it’s an effort to get our heads together and get those people back in the work force.”

Swanton said many marine industry jobs are “middle-skilled jobs — jobs that require something more than a high school diploma and less than a four-year degree. The president, I think, has recognized that these jobs are important to individuals and the companies they work for, and important to our economy.”

Sector partnerships will be one of the strategies featured at the event as a tool to help the long-term unemployed retrain for new well-paying and family-supporting careers. The business-led partnerships bring together multiple firms within the same industry, along with local post-secondary educational institutions, training providers, trades associations, and work force investment boards.

Employers work together to define common skill standards, and then partner organizations align publicly funded training and support services to prepare people for those jobs.

The Maine marine trade group was part of a successful industry-led partnership known as Maine’s North Star Alliance, which served nearly 200 companies and 2,000 incumbent, new hire, and dislocated workers.

Swanton was called to the White House to share her organization’s successes in building such a partnership to employ local residents in the marine trades industry.

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