First-of-Its-Kind Communications Firm Provides Workforce Solution for Maine
WordLab® attracts young professionals and keeps homegrown talent in-state
PORTLAND, Maine (July 9, 2019)– A 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. While common in other fields, apprenticeships in communications and public relations are rare. 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 Golden 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.
Linda Varrell has more than 25 years of experience in communications, public relations, crisis handling, and project and sales management. As a former vice president and company spokesperson for a publicly traded financial institution, she created and executed external and internal communications campaigns supporting expansive growth, product introductions, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, financial disclosures, high-visibility construction and technology projects as well as numerous crises.
In 2006, she founded Broadreach Public Relations, LLC, an award-winning, women-owned strategic communications firm based in Portland, Maine. She is nationally accredited in public relations (APR), holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership and is regularly tapped to speak at C-level events and industry-specific conferences. Linda serves on numerous nonprofit boards, including as President of the Maine Public Relations Council, Chair of University of Southern Maine (USM) Corporate Partners and is a board member of the Maine Press Association. She has also served as adjunct faculty at both USM and Thomas College.
Linda recently launched WordLab®, LLC, a nationally recognized Department of Labor apprenticeship program providing public relations, marketing and public affairs training to young professionals while serving the communications needs of small businesses and nonprofits.
Wayne L. Clark
Wayne Clark is a Maine native who has worked in Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon. He spent most of his career in executive positions in healthcare marketing and communications. He has an MA in Communication from Marist College and now teaches public relations, marketing, and strategic planning at the graduate level. He is active in the Maine Public Relations Council.
Cohort I Client Associates
Katherine is a client associate with international public relations experience in the fields of public service, activism and entertainment.
Brian joined WordLab as a client associate in February. Originally from Miami, he moved to Portland from Boston, where he earned a master’s in journalism from Boston University.
Kyle joined WordLab after spending one year in the University of Maine’s Digital Curation program. He brings about a decade of experience in new media work.
Glendon joined the WordLab team as a client associate after graduating in 2018 from the University of Southern Maine, where he received a bachelor’s in communications and media studies.
WordLab is a learning lab that will bring together apprentices in a supervised environment to work with real-world clients on communications and marketing projects to gain the necessary skills to advance their careers. For small businesses and nonprofits with limited budgets and resources to raise their profile and achieve their goals, WordLab provides access to results-driven communications and public relations services they can afford through a unique workforce solution. For more information, visit WordLab at https://wordlabpr.com/.
WordLab is a City of Portland Community Development Assisted Project.