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.