By Judy Pelletier, TAA Coordinator, Maine Department of Labor

For many years, the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) along with the Maine AFL/CIO has utilized the Peer Support Workers (PSW) model when a layoff occurs. PSWs are either recently dislocated workers and/or part of the trade-affected worker group. Since the PSWs know the struggles of being recently unemployed, they are uniquely suited to help their former co-workers navigate all questions about MDOL and other partner program benefits available to them. The peer support worker serves as a worker advocate, information source and connecting link between dislocated workers from his or her workplace and Maine’s workforce development system. PSWs are a trusted ally for their former co-workers and have been instrumental in connecting their fellow dislocated workers to services. It’s through PSWs that dislocated workers and trade-affected workers come to understand benefits and meet program deadlines for enrollment, and gain access to reemployment services.

When a large layoff is announced, we post a PSW position(s) for employment hired temporarily through the Maine Department of Labor or one of our workforce service providers.  The PSWs are located in our One Stop Centers where they provide one on one services. Initially these positions last between 3- 6 months depending on the number of workers affected and response to outreach. In the past, these positions have been extended if repeated layoffs continue to occur. PSW’s are paid equal to starting CareerCenter Consultants in our One-Stop Centers along with equal benefits. 

As part of their job duties, PSWs keep records of all laid off workers and their status in gaining reemployment.  They sign a confidentiality agreement and have access to our JobLink system.  We provide them training on resources and program processes for assistance.  Staff are available to answer questions and assist when needed.  Tracking numbers are reported regularly to Trade, Rapid Response and local management to adjust and expand outreach. 

PSWs are one of the ways that we have expanded outreach and made connections with laid off workers. Through their work, we have increased the numbers of laid off workers accessing services vital to their reemployment efforts. This is also a way to expand our own staffing at the time of a large layoff with limited local resources.  PSWs gain valuable job skills in our system and many times go on to become permanent employees in our own workforce system. We’ve valued their contribution to connecting dislocated and trade-affected workers to services.  

Posted here is a PSW job description. Feel free to comment or reach out if interested in learning more about PSWs.