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PAE, Hannaford Partner in Intern Program

Portland Adult Education and Hannaford Supermarkets recently launched the New Mainer Hannaford Retail Leadership Internship, a unique program that attracts and recruits foreign-born candidates with professional backgrounds to gain experience working in retail leadership and potentially fill leadership positions at Hannaford stores in southern Maine.

The 12-week paid internship offers both classroom and in-store training time. Each student is paired with a Hannaford mentor to learn the operations of the store and the complexities and dynamics of running a regional market leader grocery store.

“I'm fortunate to have been part of this program,” said intern Mamadou Coulibali. “For someone who had no retail experience, the classroom time and hands-on training in the store gave me the basics of the operation, the coaching of associates and helped me understand the business culture at Hannaford.”

Students work in various departments throughout the store to learn and execute policies and procedures while shadowing store leadership to learn the business at a local level. Additionally, students spend three hours each week in a classroom at Portland Adult Education to reinforce business learnings, develop leadership skills, and share their experiences with each other. At the conclusion of the program, interns can interview for and move directly into a variety of permanent leadership positions at Hannaford such as assistant produce manager trainee, produce lead, assistant center store manager trainee, assistant department manager trainee and department manager trainee.

For Portland Adult Education students like Mr. Coulibali, the Hannaford program provided training and opportunity. Originally from Mali, Mr. Coulibali has a master’s degree in finance, and experience in accounting and management. After completing the internship program, he was hired as a Produce Lead at Hannaford.

“We are really proud of this program and our partnership with Portland Adult Ed.,” said Jim Hamilton, Vice President of Operations for Hannaford Supermarkets. “Through this work, we are learning how to best attract and recruit potential applicants and support training and career advancement from across different cultures. We can also better understand potential barriers and how to remove these barriers which can include such things as language and cultural acclimation and integration. We hope that through this real-world experience, they can learn aspects of the grocery business while exploring potential career opportunities at Hannaford in the next step of their journey.”

In December, all three interns successfully completed the program, and have been offered full time permanent positions with Hannaford.

“We’re excited by the results of this pilot program,” said PAE Assistant Director Elizabeth Love. “All three interns bring a wealth of skills and expertise, and are highly motivated to build their careers in Maine. We’re confident they will succeed and add significant value to the company. We’re grateful for Hannaford’s willingness to think creatively about ways to recruit diverse talent and their outreach to Portland Adult Education to accomplish these goals.”

In addition to the programming partnership, Hannaford donated $15,000 to Portland Adult Education to support program development, coordination and instruction costs. The program is also supported by funding allocated by the City of Portland and administered by the City’s Department of Housing and Economic Development.

 “We are proud to partner with Hannaford,” said Xavier Botana, superintendent of the Portland Public Schools, which includes Portland Adult Education. “This is a great example of a win-win program, in which everyone benefits. It is a remarkable example of the creative ways in which proactive businesses can address their labor and leadership needs by leveraging the amazing and talented students at Portland Adult Education. Hannaford continues to be a great community partner to Portland Adult Education and the entire Portland community.”

About Portland Adult Education

Portland Adult Education (PAE) is the largest adult education program in Maine and serves about 2,000 students in its academic and workforce programs each year.  Students are racially and linguistically diverse with approximately 77% students identifying as Black or African American, with 45 primary languages spoken, and nearly 70 nationalities represented.

About Hannaford Supermarkets

Hannaford Supermarkets operates 184 stores in the Northeast, most with full-service pharmacies. Stores are located in Maine, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. All are committed to offering great fresh food, convenient experiences and everyday low prices. Hannaford also is an active and committed community partner—focusing on fighting hunger, supporting youth development, and helping people live healthier lives. Hannaford is an industry leader in sustainability with a strong commitment to reducing waste and protecting the environment. Hannaford diverts or donates all food at risk of going to waste—sending no food to landfills. In 2020, Hannaford donated more than 25 million pounds of food to hunger relief organizations and prevented 65 million pounds of food waste from reaching landfills. Hannaford employs nearly 30,000 associates and is based in Scarborough, Maine. Additional information can be found at