By Angelina Klouthis

Are you interested in advancing your education? Would you like to work in a high-demand field? Beginning this month, the City of Portland Office of Economic Opportunity will feature a partner organization and information to help people grow and succeed professionally. The column will address the culture of the workplace in the U.S., training opportunities, and tips that could lead to a promotion or job change or simply to doing better in a current position.

Many employers are looking for employees right now in Maine, however, some of the jobs require an advanced education, and affording a college degree can be a big barrier for many Mainers. The Office of Economic opportunity sat down with Jessica Picard, Communications Manager with the Maine Department of Labor, to learn about the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program (CSSP), which is designed to help workers prepare for high-wage, in-demand jobs.

What is the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program?
The Competitive Skills Scholarship Program is sponsored by the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL). The program helps eligible residents afford a post-secondary education by covering tuition costs and assisting in overcoming such barriers as childcare, transportation, and housing.

How do I know if I am eligible?

Eligibility is determined in a two-step process:
Step One: Initial eligibility is determined based on review of the applicant’s age, Maine residency, household income, and work eligibility status. Applicants must be at least 18 years old or have graduated from high school, must live in Maine, and must have a household income of less than 200% of the federal poverty level.

Step Two: MDOL CareerCenters work with the applicant to determine whether their employment goal is in a high-wage, in-demand occupation, if the applicant already has a marketable postsecondary degree, and if the applicant has the ability to succeed in their program. Once eligibility has been determined, applicants are provided an eligibility determination letter.

Are asylum seekers and non-citizens eligible, even if they are not eligible for federal education aid?
To be eligible for the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program, an applicant must be able to work legally in the U.S. Documentation verifying eligibility is required, and CareerCenter staff can help determine what documents are acceptable.

What is considered a high-wage, in-demand occupation?
The MDOL website lists the high-wage in-demand occupations that can be pursued with CSSP support. These occupations must pay an average wage at or above the average wage for all occupations in Maine, and must be projected to have at least 35 job openings per year.

How do I get started?
For additional information and an online application, see

Or contact CareerCenter for further information at