Pictured L to R: Adult Ed/CTE Coordinator Jeremy Kendall, WRVC Director Todd Fields, Assistant Superintendent Jodi Mezzanotte, Adult Ed Director Shelli Pride, and Administrative Assistant Elsbeth Bennett.
Westbrook School Department had a collective dream to one day have a robust Adult Education Program that not only helped New Mainers integrate into the community but also met the needs of adult learners in their community and the state as a whole. Three years ago, Gorham and Westbrook Adult Education programs applied for the Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Educational Services (FEDES) grant opportunity, one of three grant opportunities offered by the Maine DOE between 2017 and 2018 to provide districts with initial funding for local and regional initiatives to improve educational opportunities. In January 2018, Westbrook and their partner Gorham School District was awarded a grant to support the creation of the Gorham/Westbrook Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program, a regional adult education program that provides adult learners access to career and technical education that will prepare them for high-skill, high-demand occupations with defined pathways for advancement.
Building on the strong foundation of their neighbors in Gorham, Westbrook began creating career driven educational programs for adult learners. In addition to adding Jeremy Kendall to their team, as the Adult Education CTE Coordinator, they began expanding the Adult/CTE programs starting with the difficult task of building a Commercial Driving License (CDL) course, an area where the nation, including Maine, has seen a sharp shortage of workers in a very high demand occupation.
Finding that there were only two driving instructors in the entire state of Maine, Jeremy was lucky enough to convince one of them, Buddy Spaulding who runs a driving school in Albion Maine, to come to Westbrook and teach a course that later successfully graduated 8 students. With Westbrook’s CDL course under their belt, these 8 students are suited to take a State exam and become instructors themselves. One year later the CDL program has shown enormous success and Jeremy was happy to share that they are in the process of hiring 3 additional instructors, expanding the program to even more learners.
In addition to CDL, the CTE/Adult Ed program also offers a robust Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program and are gearing up for an expansion that will offer an automotive program, CompTIA (Information Technology skills), in addition to electrician training, building trade carpentry, and Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications.
Building on the foundation that seeks to bring new opportunities to all learners, Westbrook also integrates a language acquisition component of the CTE/Adult Ed program that focuses on New Mainers who are in the process of learning English and culture in their new home here in Maine. In conjunction with their growing trades programs, they are also building out their capacity to offer these same services, with an added language skills component, to New Mainers by working closely with partner agencies to help get them work-ready.
To distinguish themselves as a full-service program, they also go the extra mile to ensure the success of each and every learner that walks through the doors of the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center/Adult Education Program. “If they need their HiSET/high school diploma, academic or workready skills, we will help them. We will assist them with their job-hunting pursuits as well.” said Westbrook Adult Education Director Shelli Pride. “We put them in trade programs and we help them find jobs,” added Shelli.
In order to track their success, Westbrook aims to maintain relationships with their students by keeping up with their progress both in education and their professional careers. They also work with an advisory board, which is made up of local businesses that help to develop the programs and make sure they are on track to make a positive difference in the community and the State.
At a recent convening of local businesses at the WRVC, a local driving company approached Jeremy. “We are looking for drivers, do you have anyone in mind?” A question to which he was delighted to respond, “Yes, we are running a CDL-B course right now and there is a really great kid on the driving range, do you want to meet him?” The company was able to do an on-the-spot interview and they offered him a job right then and there. The student was not only a high school graduate of the WRVC program but was also enrolled in the Adult Ed CDL course at the time.
The CTE/Adult Education program recently celebrated the graduation of all 13 CNA students who sat for their state exams, which was a 100% pass rate for our CNA program.
The CTE/Adult Education program was a recent recipient of a very generous donation from the Associated General Contractors of Maine. This money will be used to support a scholarship fund for future CTE/Adult Education students.
It is outcomes like these that help solidify the need for the recently developed collaboration, and the projected success it will bring to the community.
Grateful to have the collaboration of their partners in Gorham who have a readymade adult education program that Westbrook was able to ride the coat tails of, they now have a long-term goal of offering each career-focused program to all high school students and adult learners in the region. They hope to help fill Maine’s high demand occupations by continuing to expand the opportunities they offer. Down the road, they will be looking into starting programs in both business and diesel mechanics and from there, the possibilities are endless.
This article was written by Maine DOE Staff Rachel Paling in collaboration with school leaders at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center and Westbrook Adult Education program as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. For more information or to submit an idea or a write-up, email Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org.