OLD TOWN – Recruiting is now underway for students in the Mechanized Logging Operations Program (MLOP), which is beginning its next class June 22 in the woods northeast of Old Town.
Students enrolled in the post-secondary training program will spend weeks harvesting timber using sophisticated state-of-the-art machines like those they will encounter in the logging industry. The hands-on experience students gain operating equipment is something unavailable anywhere else in Maine and neighboring states.
This summer’s class will be the fourth since the program launched in 2017. Graduation for the class will be held in September.
“I would encourage any individual with an interest in a good-paying, exciting career in the Maine woods to consider the MLOP program,” Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC), said. “There is no better, more efficient way to gain the experience and knowledge you need to become an equipment operator in the logging industry.”
The latest class to complete the program graduated in Sept. 2019. All 15 students enrolled in the program completed it successfully and all received job offers in the logging industry. Coordinators of the program plan to accept 15 students into this summer’s program as well. A specific harvest site for the program is now being chosen but the regional location has been chosen.
The Mechanized Logging Operations Program was created thanks to a partnership between three Maine community colleges, the PLC, and industry partners including Milton CAT and Nortrax.
The program gives students a broad overview of the most common mechanical systems found in modern timber harvesting equipment, and an understanding of the variables of timber growth, tree species, and markets. It also includes a strong emphasis on safety.
Students who are accepted into the program pay no tuition, but are responsible for transportation, housing, and food costs. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is provided by the program.
A 2014 study by the PLC found the average annual salary for workers employed by logging firms in Maine was $42,795. Mechanized logging operators are among the highest paid members of the logging workforce.
Anyone with an interest in the program should contact Leah Buck at Northern Maine Community College at 207-768-2768. Information and application instructions may be found online at https://www.nmcc.edu/industry-customized-training/mechanized-forest-operations/
While the logging industry has seen some contraction in recent years, the demand for skilled operators of the feller bunchers, harvesters, grapple skidders, forwarders, delimbers, and other mechanized logging equipment that now harvests more than 95 percent of all timber in Maine is strong and getting stronger. Many current operators are reaching retirement age and the steep costs of training new operators is driving up demand and wages.
The new program is working in tandem with the state’s current vocational training system and so far has drawn many of its students from within the logging industry itself as well as from Maine’s four Career and Technical High School logging programs in Dyer Brook, Farmington, Norway/South Paris and Rumford/Mexico. For the first time, logging operators are being trained similarly to other advanced trade occupations with a high school and postsecondary pathway approach.
A promotional video for MLOP developed by the PLC gives potential students a good look at the opportunities afforded by the program and the logging industry.
The video was developed thanks to support from Farm Credit East. It is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI5YwXiM6Gg
The PLC partnered with the Maine Community College System and industry to create the program. It was jointly developed by the PLC and Northern Maine Community College (NMCC), Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC), and Washington County Community College (WCCC) with generous support from Milton CAT/CAT Forest Products, Nortrax Inc./John Deere, and other industry partners.
The program has been supported since its inception through Maine Quality Centers, a program to develop and support skilled in-demand and high wage occupations in Maine.