Josh Taps Youth Program for College and Career Success

When Josh Spencer first sought help from the Washington County CareerCenter in 2008, he didn’t realize what a profound impact it would have on his life.

Four years later, Josh graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maine at Machias with a major in psychology and community studies and a minor in counseling.

Since then, he has already made a name for himself within the Machias community.

Josh now works as the manager of I.T. LLC – The Video Game, UPS and eBay Store in Machias. He also recently became the president of the Machias Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors after he was recognized by the chamber as the 2014 Employee of the Year.

Josh displaying plaque recognizing him as Machias' Chamber of Commerce 2014 Employee of the Year
Josh thanked the CareerCenter for helping him to start the journey that led him to where he is today.

The program at the CareerCenter helped Josh pay for college, and staff helped to guide him through the whole process.

Having a counselor there “to ask questions and to help me find answers regarding billing, enrollment and basically any other business related question I had about the college was great. If a problem ever arose she was quick to call and fix it for me. She was a tremendous asset.”

Josh continues to stay in touch with his counselor, and his sister is receiving help from her now.

Recently, Josh successfully spear-headed an event called “The Machias Showcase.” The event was a day to celebrate that Machias’s businesses. The event revolved around a raffle, where tickets were collected at each venue to help promote the businesses.

A few days before the event, Josh wrote to his counselor, “This is my brainchild, my pride and joy and I am hoping it will be a success.”

For the Washington County CareerCenter, Josh is the success.

And because of the CareerCenter, Josh’s successes are sweetened by a peace of mind.

“I did not think that I would be able to get through college without owing massive amounts of student debt, but thanks to working hard to make money, good grades allowing for better scholarships and all of the help that my counselor and the CareerCenter provided, I can proudly say I graduated without owing a dime and having never taken out a single loan.”

Josh can’t wait to see where life takes him next.

“I love being involved. It feels so good,” said Josh. “Hopefully there are more big things to come!”

Ben Gains Confidence to Get Into a Promising Technology Career

Ben* has always had a knack for technology.

"I was the guy who could stop your VCR from blinking 12 o’clock."

“I learned to solve problems early on using computer skills I learned from reverse engineering programming languages on my Commodore 64 computer, and since used those skills to solve any number of technical problems, like installing car audio equipment or building and repairing computers.”

Ben has lived in Southern Maine all his life. He was born at Goodall Hospital and raised by a single mother.

While working at a factory in the late 90s, Ben severely injured his ankle and knee. He was also suffering from some mental health issues at the time. Ben was awarded a small settlement for the work injury that could only support him for a short time; soon after, he was living off social security insurance.

“I had many mental difficulties compounded by the knee and ankle injury, which I worked through with the help of my family’s support and great doctors and nurse practitioners and therapists, eventually readying me to seek a dependable career.”

And so he turned to the CareerCenter to find that career. But what Ben got out of the CareerCenter was more than just help finding a job – it restored his confidence.


The CareerCenter empowered Ben to take that first step of re-training, and provided him with the counseling and support to get through it. By providing the encouragement and the opportunity, the CareerCenter helped Ben get back on his feet.

With the CareerCenter’s assistance, he connected with the Vocational Rehabilitation program—also known as "voc rehab," another service of Maine’s Department of Labor—that supports the employment of people with disabilities. Through voc rehab, he earned his Computer Technician certification and went on to earn a higher-level certification in Security Administration.

For Ben, passing the certification exam was not the difficult part. The technical knowledge and skills came naturally to him. Rather, his lack of self-confidence had stopped him from having a successful career.

"The most challenging issue was not being afraid of taking that first step. I was stressing about finding and beginning work again, and even feeling as though I wouldn't be competent, before I had even completed my second certification exam."

Ben said he had a difficult time picturing himself being successful.

"I had been without solid work for so long. I had the skills before even beginning the certification training, but I feared what was out there in the real world."

Fortunately, Ben found a job soon after in the tech field.

"The feeling of not fitting in, or not being seen for what I was capable of in an office environment, loomed for years until I actually made it into one, and then once I made it into the position, I felt more comfortable than I ever did sitting at home all day in my own closed environment."

Ben is glad he went to the CareerCenter for help and really values the services it provides.

"I would have no success story at all without those training programs. They were the bottom line as to why I succeeded," said Ben. "Having those certifications in my pocket proved to myself, as well as potential employers, that I knew what I was talking about when it came to computers."

*The name of the client has been changed upon request.

Amanda: “At the CareerCenter, I am somebody."

When Amanda Wilbur was laid off in October, she arrived to the Bangor CareerCenter feeling lost.

“I had never been laid off before. If I had left a job in the past, it was by choice.”

On her first visit to the CareerCenter, she met with a CareerCenter consultant. And so began a new journey of education, a few more road bumps and a long-lasting mentorship.

Amanda was having a difficult time finding work, so she decided to take this opportunity to finally get her degree.

Her CareerCenter consultant helped her get in touch with a program called the Maine Educational Opportunity Center that gave her the encouragement and confidence to go back to school. She was also able to receive unemployment while attending school through dislocated worker benefits.

Besides the unemployment benefits, Amanda paid for school by herself through student loans. Part way through school, she received the notice that her benefits were going to run out.

“I was upset. I didn’t want to give up. I was almost in tears and I went to see my [CareerCenter consultant], who cheered me up. He is my moral support and someone I think of as family.”

Through determination, and the CareerCenter's support, Amanda was able to gain back the support she needed. And her first semester she received a 3.3 GPA.

Right now, Amanda is attending the University of Maine at Augusta. Once her general education requirements are complete, she hopes to transfer to Husson University.

Amanda finds herself sending her fellow college students to the CareerCenter to get help. She thinks she would like to be a social worker.

“I want to help people. I’ve been talking to my [CareerCenter consultant] about it and he thinks I would be great at it. He encourages me.”

Amanda said her CareerCenter consultant always makes himself available. 

“Always having that person there for you when you need it is great. When times are tough or if I need someone to bounce ideas off of, I can go to him.”

Amanda has the CareerCenter to thank for where she is today.

“I have been doubtful and stressed as a 36-year-old single mom. But the CareerCenter knows me. When I walk in there I am always smiling and they are always helpful no matter what the problem is,” said Amanda. “At the CareerCenter, I am somebody."

Deb: “The CareerCenter helped me know I was not alone”

Deb Dallago was offered a job last week. She is thrilled, and has the CareerCenter to thank.

Deb was on unemployment for seven months, and the whole time the CareerCenter was there for her with amazing staff and resources, she said.

She first met her CareerCenter consultant at a workshop in Saco.

“I was impressed with his honesty, stories and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Deb. “He made our group feel valued and we were not alone.”

Deb said connection with the staff as well as the resources she gained from the CareerCenter was what helped her get a job.

She said at the CareerCenter workshops, staff explained all of the resources and services and spent a lot of time with her sharing ideas and helping to fix her resume.

Deb also attended the Job Fair Workshop, which provided her with a list of the companies so she so she was able to research and make notes ahead of time. At the job fair, with over 80 companies looking to hire, Deb had the confidence to seek out the company she wanted to work for.

“I met with the human resources manager from one of the companies I was extra excited to meet and introduced myself,” said Deb. “And because of that first contact was offered an interview. I accepted a position as an administrative assistant.”

Deb said the most challenging thing she went through during the process of finding a new job was not giving up and settling on just any job.

“I am close to 60 years old and just did not want to settle at this time in my life. I needed to stay positive and remind myself that when one door closes another one opens. I AM a great candidate and plan on staying at the job I accept.

“It took seven months but this position has every single bullet point I had written down for my dream job. It’s really never too late to follow our dreams.”

After being out of work for so long, the CareerCenter gave Deb the confidence and the inspiration to find the job she knew she deserved.

“As great as the staff was, I hope to never need you again.”

Victoria: Retraining after 35 Years as a Medical Assistant

Reflecting on her life, Victoria Henderson says it’s the journey that has mattered.

“It has certainly been a trip getting here, and I am very glad that this is where I landed.”

After 35 years working as a medical assistant, Henderson suddenly found herself without a job in January 2010. Not being able to find a replacement job, she went to the Portland CareerCenter for help.

The staff helped Victoria apply to a re-training program called the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program. She was accepted to a two-year program at Southern Maine Community College for Electrical Engineering Technology

In order to support her success, CSSP helped her with tuition and fees. Victoria said the program also helped her with car maintenance expenses so she could get to classes, fixed her broken computer and paid for her eye exam and reading glasses.

“Without these financial helps, I would not have been able to go to school,” she said.

In 2012, Victoria graduated from the Electrical Engineering Technology program and was named SMCC’s Student of the Year

“This was indeed a great honor, but I have to give much credit for this to the folks at the CareerCenter who provided guidance and encouragement through this time,” she said.

The CareerCenter even helped Victoria continue her electrical engineering technology training at the University of Maine’s Technology Management program the next semester.

“Besides the encouragement and guidance that the CareerCenter has given me, it has been a major factor in my being able to do this training without having to work a full-time job,” she said. “The financial aid gave me the opportunity to devote my energies to my studies.”

Victoria graduated in May and received USM’s Department of Technology Outstanding Student Award for 2014.

She is now looking for a job in her newly trained field by again using the CareerCenter.

“Coming into this new career training, I did not know what I was capable of,” said Victoria.

All she needed was a little help from the CareerCenter to find out who she was and what she could do. And now she has confidence when applying for jobs.

“Now if I have any self-doubt about a job I might like to apply for, I will just need to buck up and remind myself that I have gotten this far, I know a lot more than I did four years ago, and I will certainly know more than a year from now than I do now. The only failure is failing to try.”