By Danielle Waugh, NECN
With its beaches, lobster bakes, and ski resorts, Maine draws in millions of vacationers each year. What it’s not drawing in is enough job seekers.
“We need to make a concerted effort to get people here,” said Ed McKersie, Founder and President of Portland job recruiting and staffing firm Pro Search. “I feel the state of Maine does a great job marketing itself as a tourist destination, and we don’t have a similar effort to market ourselves as a career destination.”
Job recruiters, employers, and politicians speak about Maine’s “brain drain” problem: the trend of young, educated people leaving the state to find employment. There’s also the issue of an aging workforce, and a declining population.
McKersie, seeing Maine’s strength in tourism and struggle to find skilled workers, had a thought: what if the state had a job website, that showcased recreation opportunities and the quality of life in each region?
About a month ago, he launched the Live + Work in Maine website. Job applicants can search by industry, or lifestyle.
“Somebody might really want to ski, and they might want to see what kind of opportunities are within a half hour of Sugarloaf,” said McKersie. Applicants can view a company profile, along with a profile of the region they’d be living in.
“Finally someone stepped up and did it,” said Bob Sansone, Human Resources at Tyler Technologies in Yarmouth, Maine. He said his company created a profile on the website immediately, because marketing Maine is a critical part of their job recruiting efforts.
“Once people come here and see what a beautiful place it is to live, they find out there are real opportunities here and it’s much easier to recruit them,” said Sansone.
Appealing to out of state applicants, the website features video testimonials – “success stories” from people who moved to Maine, and found personal and professional opportunities. One of the featured stories is Torey Penrod-Cambra, a native of Columbus, Ohio, who moved to Maine, sight-unseen.
“I had never been here, and in my mind it was just really cold,” she laughed. After six months working remotely for a company out of state, she decided she wanted to leave in the Portland area permanently, and found a job as marketing director at Kepware in Portland.
“Living and working here is not only possible, it’s inspiring,” said Penrod-Cambra.
Maine’s political leaders have long spoken about the “skills gap” in the workforce. State Speaker of the House Mark Eves, on a recent job tour in Portland, said recruiting workers starts with promoting the state.
“We have a lot to be proud of,” said Eves. “We need to be telling that story more often.”
McKersie says this website is part of that effort.
“There are people we really need to get here,” said McKersie, “and [the website] plays off of one of our strengths: the tourism industry.”