Immigrants may hold a key to solving Maine’s labor shortage

Published by Portland Press Herald | September 17, 2022

Jeannette Tshumu, an immigrant from Democratic Republic of Congo makes cheese-and-herb biscuits at Wild Oats in Brunswick.As more people leave the state’s workforce than enter it, new Mainers may play a vital role in filling the gaps.

Jeannette Tshumu, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, makes cheese-and-herb biscuits at Wild Oats in Brunswick.[/caption]Jeannette Tshumu’s hands move methodically as she pushes out a long roll of biscuit dough, dips an empty can into a measuring cup of flour, presses it into the soft dough and twists. She transfers the perfectly formed biscuit onto a tray, moves the leftover pieces into a new pile and repeats the process.

At the other end of Wild Oats Bakery’s labyrinthine kitchen, her husband, Blaise Phambu, oversees the prep area.

While Mamie Kabala and Ana Augusto slice meats and Maravilha Antonio juices lemons, Phambu shows a new employee how to use a large immersion blender in a large container of fruit and juice.

All five employees are asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. They are among the dozen or so foreign-born workers that the Brunswick bakery has hired to boost its workforce at a time when workers are hard to come by.

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