Paul Scalzone has led CEI’s Workforce Solutions program since 1997. He is responsible for implementing federally funded workforce projects and CEI’s Employment and Training Agreements, and ensuring responsive and proactive private-public sector partnerships. Paul promotes, establishes and sustains workforce intermediary education and training interventions, and post training job placement and mentoring services. He is a member of the Central Western Maine Workforce Investment Board of Directors and the State of Maine WorkReady Steering Committee.
What are some of the biggest changes in workforce issues you’ve seen over time?
Maine’s workforce has faced significant changes due to the deconstruction of the “traditional” economy, including seafood and poultry processing, shoe and textile manufacturing, dairy farming, and fishing sectors. Prior to my arrival at CEI, I managed the Knox County Workforce Development Center for Coastal Economic Development Corporation, a contractor for the Maine Department of Labor. During the 90s, many dislocated workers were retraining for jobs in customer services, fueled by the rapid introduction of the credit card and financial services sector. Labor suddenly became “available” to fill these new jobs, and employers like MBNA, TD Bank, Bank of America, Taction and others were feasting on an “abundance” of workers for call-center customer service positions. However, many of these workers were overwhelmed, and struggled with a transition that required them to learn a totally new set of vocational and workforce competencies. These changes correlated with the gradual gentrification of some of Maine’s traditional working class livelihoods and neighborhoods. The restructuring continues as health care, retail customer services, tourism, food services, information technology, precision manufacturing, aquaculture/marine services, and the mechanical trades have emerged as major employment sectors. As we’ve all now experienced, progressive employment now requires computer competencies, critical thinking, communication, and other related “soft” work readiness skills.
How does CEI Workforce Solutions support other CEI services such as lending and business counseling?
Workforce Solutions (formally known as Targeted Opportunities) has played an integrated and supportive role with CEI lending and business counseling since its inception. My predecessor, Kathleen Kearney, along with Ron Phillips, Blake Brown (former CFO) and Jim Burbank (former Small Business Counselor) were the co-creators of the CEI Employment & Training Agreement (ETAG) which promotes alignment between CEI investments and the creation of new job opportunities toward a triple bottom line outcome. The ETAG remains our signature trademark as a workforce intermediary and services broker, and Workforce Solutions supports CEI’s business with our sustained partnerships, statewide service provider network, and creative projects that benefit businesses and people in Maine and sometimes beyond. CEI Business Counselors are the best Maine has to offer.
In northern New England, and in Maine in particular, we have an aging demographic and a potential workforce shortage looming, what do you see as solutions to this problem?
I wish I had “a” solution because it’s a very complex dilemma. There’s no arguing with the facts. Maine is rapidly aging and much of our available labor pool is already in the workforce. CEI has been supporting the assimilation of the diverse number of New Americans that have settled in Maine, and Workforce Solutions has played a crucial role with respect to our leadership of the Portland Jobs Alliance. That’s definitely one of the critical pieces. I moved to Maine in 1977 because I wanted to experience a beautiful place, and a quality of life, where I would be welcomed, could make a living, and raise a family. CEI Lending and Workforce Solutions can contribute to this “welcoming” by promoting “human-centered operations strategies” as suggested by Zeynep Ton in her book The Good Jobs Strategy.
What’s a typical day like for you at CEI?
Most days, I love going to work and being with a great group of colleagues. I regularly check in with Keith Bisson (Senior Vice President), and Izabela Werner (Fund Accountant), and I’ve also experienced successful interactions the last two years in terms of inter-departmental project and program development, particularly with CEI Capital Management and CEI’s Sustainable Fisheries and Agriculture Programs. I try to operate like I’m running a business within a business: thinking, keeping up with what’s happening with our projects, which includes convening partner and business meetings; monitoring budgets and communications with colleagues; anticipating program deadlines, and sustaining internal and external relationships. The big plus in all of this is that I’m guaranteed a paycheck and benefits which, on a daily basis, helps me appreciate what CEI has reciprocated in terms of providing employment and sustaining our own workforce during the last 18+ years of my time here.