The Star-Herald

ACAP receives U.S. grant to help rural women

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Aroostook County Action Program received a 12-month federal grant last year to help train women for non-traditional occupations in three counties in rural Maine: Aroostook, Washington and Hancock. The agency recently received word that it has been selected for a second year of that grant.

ACAP learned Sept. 25 that it is one of a few grant recipients nationwide to earn the Women in Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Occupations (WANTO) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“It is very exciting to have been selected for a second year,” said Christy Daggett, senior manager at ACAP Workforce Development. “As with all grants, there is a major learning curve the first year developing staff, creating infrastructure, and getting the word out. With a second year, we can build upon the work we have been doing, and reach even more women in our community.”

The goal of the grant is two-fold: prepare women for immediate employment or facilitate partnerships with local businesses to create apprenticeship opportunities. ACAP will match female participants’ strengths with the needs of the employer for the intended successful outcome—long-term employment for the women and a committed workforce for the employer.

Over the last two years, ACAP’s guiding principle that has focused its work agency-wide is to make sure that Aroostook County families will be economically secure.  

“A significant number of Aroostook County households with children under the age of 18 are headed by single women,” Daggett said. “We have to make sure these women have access to and are prepared for good paying jobs that come with benefits.”

Manufacturing occupations and jobs in the skilled trades make up a large part of the economy in rural Maine. Employment in these areas would offer women good pay and benefits, which will lead to economic security for more rural families, Daggett added.

The $350,000 grant will help maintain four positions that have recruited and developed access for low-income women across the three counties, but will also support funding for training and transportation.

“We learned through our first year that transportation is a major barrier for women who would like to access the training we provide,” said Daggett. “So we requested additional funds to support this need.”

Daggett added the new grant has money to support training for women who are just above income eligibility guidelines for federal support, which is $24,480 annually for a family of one. This represents a number of residents in the targeted regions.

Year two of the grant will also see a change in the pre-apprenticeship training. During the first year, the focus was mainly on work readiness. While this will remain important, ACAP will redesign the trainings into two academies focused on manufacturing and healthcare.

Once the women in the Maine program are placed in employment or apprenticeships, ACAP will assist with retention services. All women will have a career counselor and mentor who will follow up on their progress through the first year.

“Helping women move in to non-traditional, high wage careers is an important strategy in addressing the gender wage gap,” said Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Policy Center in Augusta. “We applaud Aroostook County Community Action for their innovative approach, and we are excited about the opportunity for women to improve their economic security through this program.”

For further information, contact Erin Benson at ACAP’s Presque Isle office, 554-4165 or ebenson@acap-me.org.

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