LearA new company has launched in Portland that’s providing a unique solution to combat the exodus of Maine’s young workforce. WordLab ®, which began operating in February, is a state-accredited, full-time communications apprenticeship program that is attracting young professionals to Maine while also keeping homegrown talent here.
With a median age of 44.6, Maine is currently the oldest state, according to the 2017 American Community Survey. This aging and slowly-growing population has created a shrinking workforce, resulting in a lack of jobs and economic opportunities for young professionals. WordLab is seeking to change that.
The startup’s model is the first-of-its-kind in the country. WordLab’s program provides entry-level opportunities for recent graduates and professionals in career transition. The firm provides results-driven communications and public relations services to small businesses and nonprofits in Maine and northern New England, which otherwise could not afford a full-service agency.
“The opportunity to create jobs and draw young professionals to Maine was a driving force behind WordLab,” said Linda Varrell, president and founder. “And providing an incentive for Maine’s workers to stay is equally rewarding. We want to show that Maine is a great place to live and work.”
WordLab has already hired out-of-state apprentices from Florida and Ohio, an apprentice returning to Maine after college and native Mainers from four counties. They work directly with Varrell and Program Director Wayne Clark, a former communications executive at Legacy Health in Portland, Oregon, and Maine Medical Center. The close working relationship between apprentices and senior leadership ensures active, on-the-job training and classroom instruction for each cohort along with quality service for clients.
Varrell is also president and CEO of Broadreach Public Relations, which she opened in 2006 to help businesses and organizations raise their profiles through strategic communication and media relations. Since then, Broadreach has consistently employed interns and apprentices, giving Varrell the idea and incentive to expand the company’s development program for young professionals into its own new entity. This was furthered during her completion of the prestigious Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program in 2018. Although under the same ownership, WordLab and Broadreach each have their own distinct clients.
The first apprentice cohort started in February and has begun successfully working with several clients, securing a feature story on a local news network and written pieces in print publications. The second cohort began working in June. To be considered for the apprenticeship role, an associate’s degree is preferred, or the equivalent work experience. The apprenticeship duration is 12 months.
WordLab is certified by the Department of Labor’s Maine Apprenticeship Program (MAP) and has received funding from the City of Portland. It is currently accepting inquiries for new business. WordLab’s office is located on the third floor at 19 Commercial Street, Portland, ME 04101. Learn more here: https://wordlabpr.com/