June 23, 2021

Jackson lab to hire 118 new employees> Unique program offers training for workers

Customized training to tend customized mice will mean good-paying jobs for more than 100 people this year as part of a cooperative project between Eastern Maine Technical College and The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.

Job training for an expected 118 positions at the genetics research facility will be paid for through the Maine Quality Centers Program of the state’s technical college system. The Jackson Laboratory is one of seven Maine businesses, mostly in southern Maine, to benefit in the latest round of state-funded, job-training initiatives announced this week.

As many as 360 new jobs will be created at the seven businesses, including 70 new jobs at the Spurwink Institute in Portland, 50 jobs at Unimation Communications Corp. in Unity and 33 jobs at Electronic Manufacturing Systems in Westbrook. Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick, Liberty Mutual in Lewiston, and Cooper-Weymouth Peterson in Clinton collectively will add 90 employees through the program.

Jackson lab’s participation in the job training program coincides with the mammalian research center’s expansion in both programs and buildings. With an employee roster at about 700, the lab could reach 1,000 by the year 2000. One of the largest employee growth areas is in animal care technology. Additions to the mouse caretakers staff will help the lab keep pace with the international demand for its specially bred mouse strains.

Joanne Harris, the lab’s director of employee services, said the research facility requires specially trained employees. With EMTC coordinating the training at the lab, the facility could have new employees ready to start work within a year.

The Maine Quality Centers training is provided free to businesses that are expanding in the state and offering good jobs. Companies must create at least eight new full-time jobs with benefits. Technical colleges build the curriculum, recruit potential employees and provide training.

John Fitzsimmons, president of the technical college system, said Thursday the businesses benefit by having a well-trained employment pool. The technical colleges, in turn, build programs and purchase equipment to better educate their students for expanding job markets. For some technical colleges, new degree programs have been initiated because of the partnership with the businesses.

Fitzsimmons said initial funding for the program, adapted from a successful model in South Carolina, was $2.6 million in 1995. Drawn from the state’s general fund, the program operates on a $1.5 million budget this year, its third year. Fizsimmons said he expects funding will be $1.2 million for each of the next two years.

Last week, the program announced a project to prepare 120 new employees in the field of software and Internet technical support. That project, between EnvisioNet Computer Services and Kennebec Valley Technical College, will help expand a business that currently employs only 24 people.

Fitzsimmons said a total of 2,780 new jobs have been created through the program — 450 of those at National Semiconductor in South Portland. He said more than 8,000 people have applied during the last three years to sign up for training. The hourly salary range for most of the jobs is $8 to $10, although specialized jobs like those at the South Portland business have an average annual salary of $30,000.

The program, Fitzsimmons said, is directed toward businesses that “have made a commitment to being in Maine. We want to help them stay here.”

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