WATERVILLE — Thomas College and Jobs for Maine’s Graduates have forged a new partnership to help more Maine students attain college degrees and land quality jobs after graduation, according to a Thomas College press release.

The partnership, funded by the Unity Foundation, will provide students who enroll at Thomas College with the same personal attention, guidance and support JMG currently provides at the middle school and high school levels.

Thomas President Laurie Lachance and Craig Larrabee from Jobs for Maine’s Graduates meeting on the campus of Thomas College to discuss the new collaboration funded by The Unity Foundation.

Lachance said the college and JMG are perfectly aligned because both organizations ensure students gain skills that are valued by today’s employers, not just earn a diploma or degree. She said in the release, “JMG has helped thousands of Maine youth achieve academic and professional success, while we put a college education and career within reach of all our students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college.”

JMG identifies students who face barriers to education and provides them with the support they need, up to and beyond high school graduation, to overcome those barriers. The nonprofit organization aids more than 5,000 students in public schools and town academies throughout the state with counseling and other support services. This will be its first ever college-level endeavor.

JMG President and CEO Craig Larrabee said Thomas College is a good fit for expanding his organization’s support to the college level because the partnership offers an opportunity and a solution to narrow the skills gap between what businesses are looking for and the skills that our young people have when they graduate from high school. “So many jobs require skills beyond a high school degree,” said Larrabee in the release. “Maine is facing a workforce crisis because of this skills gap. This partnership with Thomas will help us achieve our ultimate goal of helping students continue their education beyond high school. We believe in the leadership and vision of Thomas College, and together we will meet the students where they are, to identify their reality, and what they really need help with in order to achieve a college degree.”

Beginning in fall 2014, Thomas College students who enroll in its JMG program will have access to a designated college-level JMG specialist. The offering will be an extension of the counseling programs JMG implements in Maine public schools and town academies throughout the state. The college’s JMG program will also offer career counseling services to students starting on their first day at Thomas, connecting them with job shadowing experiences, internship opportunities and more. The new program is being offered to JMG alum who enroll at, or are already attending, Thomas.

Larry Sterrs, CEO and chairman of the Unity Foundation, said in the release, “We have had a long and fruitful relationship with JMG, and now we are pleased to be funding the first-ever JMG program to be housed on a college campus. We hope it will drive enrollment at Thomas. The students who participate in JMG in high school will be more likely to want to attend Thomas, because they will have the same level of support in college as they had in high school. I am excited to see how it rolls out in the first year.”

The partnership with JMG builds on the college’s Guaranteed Job Program that guarantees students that meet the requirements of the program will earn a job within six months of their graduation. If students maintain a 3.5 overall grade point average, the college also guarantees their tuition will remain the same throughout their college career.

Jonathan Kent, vice president of enrollment management at Thomas, said in the release, “I’m excited about partnering with JMG beginning this fall, as it will add another dimension to recruiting students to Thomas. The relationship that students build with their JMG advisor while in junior high and high school allows them to trust Thomas because of the partnership. I believe that students who may not have considered attending college or who attend a two-year program will now consider Thomas as an option for continuing their education. I’m looking forward to working hand in hand with JMG and the amazing students that choose Thomas College.”

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