WATERVILLE — Peter Lyford was out of work six months before he landed the perfect job last year at United Way of Mid-Maine, Inc.

He doesn’t think that would have happened had he not received help from the Business & Career Center at Waterville Public Library.

The resource development coordinator for United Way since last June, Lyford does everything from fundraising to running the annual campaign as part of his job.

“I love it. It’s a perfect fit for me,” he said.

Lyford spent 15 years working in the economic development field before going through a transition period and seeking a career in which he could use his skills but remain involved in the community. A graduate of Dartmouth College with a bachelor’s degree in policy studies, Lyford also decided to pursue a master’s degree in public policy and management from the Muskie School at University of Southern Maine.

He was still in school and working as an intern with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Lewiston in December 2010 when the funding for that position ran out.

“I was unemployed and sending out résumés but with no response,” he said. “My wife, Lee, is on the Board of the Waterville Public Library, and she said, ‘There’s this new business and career center at the library. Why don’t you go down there?'”

Lyford, 49, attended a résumé writing workshop there hosted by Women, Work and Community and with help. He ultimately revised his résumé so that instead of its first page being a chronological list of his work experiences, it was a letter and survey of his skills, he said. He believes that one simple change made all the difference in the way employers looked at him and was the key to his landing the job at United Way. His experience at the career center, he said, was positive.

“It was a great help,” Lyford said. “All of it was just a really uplifting experience for me, because I was getting discouraged.”

The center opened on the first floor of the library in March 2011. It helps job seekers identify their skills and career interests, hone their skills and write résumés.

Workshops are offered in everything from résumé-writing to interviewing. Fourteen computers are available for research, résumé and cover letter-writing and job searching. Print, electronic and programming resources are available.

A laptop laboratory also is offered to allow for individual support and classroom instruction.

Business and career center coordinator Tammy Rabideau said people from all around central Maine use the center.

“We service anyone who walks in the door,” she said. “There is no charge to participants, for any of the programs that we offer in the library.”

The program initially was funded in 2009-10 by federal stimulus dollars from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act to Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, as well as funding from Waterville Rotary Club.

Rabideau was hired in May 2010 to work 15 hours a week until September that year, but the library included funding for the position in a capital campaign for its building renovation, so her job continues.

“I am in love with my work and passionate about it, and I have been working full-time hours since about last August,” Rabideau said.

When the center opened, she said, its goal was to provide programs and services to the neediest people in the community; but since then, it has expanded to include everyone.

“Bottom line, the goal we have is to serve the economic vitality of our region,” she said.

Rabideau in January launched the Professionals Moving Ahead Networking Group for unemployed, underemployed professionals; it is modeled after a group at the Lewiston Career Center. The group meets the second and fourth Tuesday of the month and usually includes a speaker.

Laton Edwards, 69, of Waterville, is finding that group beneficial in his search for a job in which he hopes to use his newly acquired skills in computer-assisted design.

Having worked 40 years as a funeral director, Edwards a few years ago decided to change his career. He worked four years as an office manager for a Waterville firm, but that business ultimately downsized and he was laid off. He then took a temporary office job.

Out of work since April 2009, he decided to go back to school and attended Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, where he just finished his associate’s degree in computer assisted design. He hopes to work as a drafter for an architectural or engineering firm.

He said that while some people might say his age is against him in his effort to find work, people at the business and career center tell him that is changing — that employers will look at his experience as a plus.

“I think the center is a great thing,” Edwards said. “They’re helping people. There have been people in there who are computer illiterate practically, who have been taught some basic skills. There have been people in there who had no idea how to do a résumé and there’s a workshop on putting together a résumé , a workshop on how to do an interview, a workshop on how to get an interview.”

Edwards recommends the center to anyone looking for work — or trying to find employees for their business.

“There’s so many different kinds of help there — it’s just marvelous.”

Rabideau maintains there a lots of jobs out there — it’s just a matter of matching job-seekers to employers and getting them in the same room to “just let things happen.”

“I feel like there’s a lot of ships passing in the night,” she said.

In addition to coordinating the center, Rabideau is co-founder of PechaKucha, a networking group for entrepreneurs; she is chairwoman of the Waterville Main Street economic restructuring committee and a member of the business attraction and retention committee of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.

Rabideau strongly supports entrepreneurship and small business and believes thriving arts and culture are economic drivers for a region.

Lyford praises Library Director Sarah Sugden for pressing to open the center at the library after the state-funded career center in Waterville closed in 2005.

“And Tammy has worked the center into a place where all these groups can connect and network,” he said.

The center works with many employers and agencies, including KVCAP, Mid-Maine Adult and Community Education, Lawrence Adult Education, Central/Western Maine Worforce Investment Board, Augusta CareerCenter, T-Mobile, Women, Work & Community, Job Corps. Maine Educational Opportunity Center, Waterville Main Street, Seasoned Worker Forum, Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, Waterville Rotary Club and the city of Waterville.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

 


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