Labor commissioner makes first County appearance

12 years ago

By Kathy McCarty
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette made her first appearance in Aroostook County Sept. 20 since being sworn in by Gov. Paul LePage on Sept. 7, speaking at the Northeast Society for Human Resource Management’s 16th annual Human Resource Conference, held at The Crow’s Nest. Paquette discussed “What’s New at the Department of Labor.”
    The conference is designed for managers, supervisors, small business owners, executives and human resource professionals to gather and share information and ideas on ways to better address human resource issues.
BU-CommLaborPaquette-clr-cx-all-39Jeanne Paquette
    During her visit to the Star City, Paquette said it was her goal to “help not hinder” business in the state. She noted that the focus should be less on compliance and enforcement, with more attention given to “educating and training workers to get the best jobs.”
    “I want people to come away today feeling comfortable reaching out and calling us and asking questions,” said Paquette.
    Prior to being sworn in, Paquette, of North Yarmouth, served as deputy commissioner from July 2011 until her confirmation as commissioner.
    “Commissioner Paquette has focused her career on ‘finding good people good jobs.’ She brings her previous experiences as a business owner and a human resources professional to her role in the Department of Labor, with particular concern for how the department interacts with both employees and employers,” said Julie Rabinowitz, DOL director of communication.
    Rabinowitz said with more than 20 years’ experience in human resources management, Paquette specialized in both training and management development.
    “She first began her career in HR while living in San Diego. After returning to Maine, she held the position of vice president, human resources, at Androscoggin Bank based in Lewiston and served as the director of human resources at Creative Work Systems, a non-profit serving people with disabilities,” Rabinowitz said.
    “Her background in human resources led her to found an industry-related media business in 1999, which pulished the ‘Employment Times,’ ‘HR Times’ and MyJobWave.com and later merged with Sun Media Group,” noted Rabinowitz.
    Paquette said she’d like her department’s mission to change to reflect current needs.
    “We are focusing on changing the image of the Department of Labor so that people know that we want to be a help, not a hindrance, to businesses. We realize at the DOL that we have two customers — job seekers and employers. Because of the recession, we spent a lot of time helping job seekers, and now we need to make sure that we also focus on helping businesses and train people for jobs that are in demand,” said the commissioner.
    She encouraged human resource representatives to network with their counterparts in Augusta.
    “The Human Resources function is one that needs to be more engaged with what goes on at the Department of Labor. We want to give businesses the answers to the test before we give them the test. This is about educating businesses better so that they understand how they need to comply with the law,” said Paquette.
    “Our job is to make sure workers are protected. This is why we have enforcement programs. If businesses know the right thing to do, compliance goes up without having to put more of our limited resources into enforcement,” the commissioner continued
    “At DOL, our number one core value is customer service,” said Paquette.
    The event, “Managing Today’s Workforce,” featured several speakers in addition to Paquette, including: Howard Jones, MD, MPH, director of Occupational Health Services with Eastern Maine Medical Center; April Clark, SPHR, vice president/regional director, Manpower; Nancy C. Nichols, LCPC, NCC, counselor, Transformations, LLC; and Jason Parent, director of advancement, The Aroostook Medical Center. There were also about a dozen representatives available from several businesses, providing information about their respective establishments.