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Internship program looks to keep young professionals in Maine

Maine Career Compass is expanding its programming to include co-op and apprenticeship opportunities for students in Maine.

MAINE, USA — As Maine continues to experience struggles in filling its workforce with youth, an internship program is looking to provide more opportunities for young professionals, in the hopes of keeping them here to live and work for the future.

"Last summer with the pandemic, there was a dip and we saw that in the number of available internships. The good news is, this summer we're already seeing an increase," said Kate Howell. She's the program director for Educate Maine, which coordinates the program 'Maine Career Compass' in partnership with Focus Maine. 

After seeing a dip in professional learning opportunities for students in Maine last year, Howell says this year there's already going to be more to offer.

"Some will be in-person, some will be hybrid or virtual," said Howell. Maine Career Compass, which was originally known as the Focus Maine Intern Experience, has been operating since the summer of 2017. Howell says following feedback from employers, the internship is expanding to include year-round opportunities.

"Oftentimes students see one focused path, and we want them to see all of the opportunities and different pathways they may take," said Howell. 

Programming through Maine Career Compass will include opportunities for those in an apprenticeship or co-op. 

"All of these students that come to Maine to study... What are we going to do proactively to really get them to want to not only study here but live here?" asked David Pease, Senior Vice President and Director of Talent, Diversity & Inclusion at Bangor Savings Bank. 

Pease has welcomed interns since Educate Maine and Focus Maine began working together to create internship opportunities in 2017. He says it's important to give students the chance to succeed by finding productive, and engaging work for them. One of the students who has spent his time at Bangor Savings Bank is University of Maine graduate student Ilija Stokjilkovic.

"How collaborative the environment is really opened my eyes to you know so many different things that I can do in my own career," said Stokjilkovic.

Maine Career Compass has worked with 80 employers over the last five years and placed more than 2000 students into programs in Maine. 

Howell hopes the adding of opportunities for co-op and apprenticeship programs help bring even more young workers to Maine, and can incentive wanting to stay here long term. 

"Maine has a lot to offer in the way of outdoor recreation, and career opportunities. So our program really helps to balance all of that and let people see the full picture of what Maine has to offer," said Howell. 

Although it's only February, Howell adds that now is the time for students to begin their search and start applying. Maine Career Compass has also partnered with Live + Work in Maine to allow employers to post internship opportunities to its job board at no cost.