Portland Adult Education (PAE) is the recipient of nearly $1.5 million in grant funding for three Strengthening Maine Workforce projects, the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) announced last week.
The three grants to PAE are part of the Maine Jobs and Recovery Program, federal funding awarded through a statewide competitive grant process for adult education providers. The funding will enable PAE and other adult ed providers to:
● Develop, implement, continue, and/or expand, workforce training programs in collaboration with employers
● Partner with employers to address workforce shortages in employment sectors such as manufacturing, restaurants, lodging, healthcare and retail trade industries identified as suffering deep economic declines due to COVID-19
● Develop and provide English language acquisition services
● Improve availability, relevance, and access to English language acquisition courses, including reducing waitlists for English language acquisition services.
“The Portland Public Schools very much appreciates DOE’s recognition of the wonderful work that is happening at Portland Adult Education, the largest adult education provider in Maine,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “This funding will enable us to increase the reach and intensity of the valuable services that PAE provides to help Portland residents access their full potential.”
The three PAE projects funded are:
● Extended Language Access Project
Total award amount: $489,850
The Extended Language Access Project will enable PAE to extend English language learning opportunities to a greater number of students disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through innovatively addressing a waitlist, expanding English instruction, and addressing barriers to participation.
● English and Digital Skills Integration
Total award amount: $490,650
The English and Digital Skills Integration programming will increase relevance and accessibility of English language acquisition and workplace preparedness through 1) improving remote instruction, 2) adequate access to loaner devices and hot spots and 3) integrating a multi-pronged approach to digital skills building at all levels of the organization that includes a digital skills lab, targeted workshops and digital skills integration into traditional ESOL classes.
● Healthcare Pathways
Total award amount: $500,000
PAE’s Healthcare Pathways Program will create English language acquisition and workforce training opportunities in the healthcare industry for individuals disproportionately affected by COVID-19, or who are currently out of the labor force. PAE will work closely with healthcare employers to design and implement programming and connect students to employment opportunities.
PAE Executive Director Abbie Yamamoto said, “We are grateful for these grants, which will enable us to address issues that have been exacerbated during the pandemic, including access to technology and digital literacy. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our English and healthcare offerings in service of those who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Through these efforts, we hope to contribute to the region-wide recovery from COVID-19 in collaboration with our partners.”
The grants to the three PAE projects totaled $1,480,500. The PAE projects were among eight Strengthening Maine Workforce projects to be funded. Learn more about the other five projects that were also awarded grants.
The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 51 percent of the district’s students are white and 49 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.
Portland Adult Education, a part of the Portland Public Schools, is the largest adult education program in Maine and serves approximately 2,000 students in its academic and workforce programs each year. Students are racially and linguistically diverse with about 77 percent of students identifying as Black or African American, with 45 primary languages spoken, and nearly 70 nationalities represented.