Building an economy that works for everyone starts by centering Maine workers and families in the conversation. Go beyond the data and read personal stories Maine workers contributed to our annual State of Working Maine reports.
State of Working Maine 2023: Boosting Maine's Workforce
Armando came to Maine in April as an asylum seeker from Angola. He studied finance, banking, and insurance in Angola and is waiting to be able to apply for a work permit. He currently lives in crowded housing in Portland.
Grace is an Ed Tech 3 with 15 years’ experience as an educator. She currently works primarily with 1st graders at a Cumberland County school serving students in Pre-K through 2nd grade.
Jess is a special education professional with six years of experience supporting children with a diverse range of needs in residential, substantially separate, and public-school settings. She is currently working as a resource room teacher in a Midcoast elementary school where she has 23 students on her caseload.
A married father of two living in Bangor, John has had different jobs over the years, working in restaurants, at gas stations, as a technician at a psychiatric hospital, and as a manager of a call center. John is currently working part-time as a delivery driver and enrolled as a full-time student seeking a bachelor’s degree in psychology, which he hopes will help him become a substance abuse counselor. John recently reached the 60-month limit for support through the Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) program.
Kennedy is a 4th grade teacher at a Lewiston area school. She has a master’s in educational leadership with a concentration in English language learning and six years’ experience teaching in Maine elementary schools. We spoke to her just days after Maine’s deadliest mass shooting took place in her community.
Kim is an Ed Tech 3 with 21 years of experience working in elementary and middle schools in Oxford County. She is currently working with middle school students across four grades and coaches Special Olympics track, skiing, and basketball.
Marcella came to Maine two years ago from Angola and lives with her husband and children in Westbrook. She worked in customer relations at an oil and gas firm back in Angola, and now works as a client coordinator at the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, supporting integration for new Mainers.
Silvio came to Maine in July as an asylum seeker from Angola. Unable to find housing, he is currently living in a Portland church while waiting to receive his work permit. His field of expertise is business administration.
Tasha is a single mom living in Old Town. She has an associate degree in criminal justice, has owned and managed a salon, and most recently worked as an ed tech and behavioral health specialist for children. Currently living in income-based housing and receiving assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Tasha is seeking part-time employment and preparing to return to school to complete a bachelor’s degree that will help her get a job in human resources.
State of Working Maine 2022: Recognizing the Value of Labor
Brandi McNease worked in the food service industry as a cook, server, manager, and trainer for 20 years. In her most recent position as a trainer for an international restaurant franchise, Brandi sought to improve staff retention by advocating for better pay and working conditions. When she and her fellow workers tried to unionize, their Augusta franchise was closed.
Forrest Lorette worked on dairy farms in the Skowhegan area from age 15 until graduating high school. Finding little opportunity for advancement in agricultural work, he transitioned to landscaping and hardscaping, and early this year began a new career as a machinist in a midcoast shipbuilding enterprise.
Gervin Kah is a telecommunications engineer and former member of the Gabonese National Assembly who arrived in Maine in early 2022, seeking asylum. Although Gervin’s qualifications include a degree in network administration and computer maintenance, laws regarding asylum seekers currently prohibit him from working. Starting from the time his asylum application is received, he must wait a minimum of 180 days before he is allowed to apply for a work permit and a Social Security card. Sometimes the process takes far longer.
Creative Play Childcare
Terri Crocker is the owner of Creative Play Childcare in Bath, serving 32 children ages 5 months to 13 years old. Terri has worked in early childhood education for 29 years, and as the owner of Creative Play for 19 years.
Bouncing Bubbles Child Care
Chrissie Davis has operated nationally accredited Bouncing Bubbles Child Care from her Skowhegan home for 21 years. She independently serves six children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old before, during, and after school hours all year long.
Youth and Family Outreach
Michelle Belanger is the program coordinator at Youth and Family Outreach in Portland. The nationally accredited child care center’s 15 employees serve 58 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. Michelle has worked in many different capacities during her 25 years in early childhood education, including as a Pre-K and toddler teacher. She has worked at Youth and Family Outreach for 14 years.
Kate Hunter worked in food service in breweries, pubs, and restaurants for 12 years, where it was her primary source of income. She lost her job in a Portland restaurant when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and did not return when service resumed. Kate relocated to the Skowhegan area and now works for a life-long learning platform that is a program of the Maine State Library system.