The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC) has launched a promotional video charting the success of the new Mechanized Logging Operations Program as recruitment for its next class ramps up.
Maine’s first post-secondary training program for operators of mechanized logging equipment has begun recruiting students for classes to be held in June, building on the success of its first class in the summer of 2017 and utilizing the new video to show potential recruits the opportunities and the future available in the industry.
Shot at the first active class site near Medway as well as at business locations including Pleasant River Lumber’s Dover Foxcroft dimension mill and Treeline Inc. facilities in Chester, the video combines interviews with students, instructors, industry representatives, wood consumers, and logging contractors with footage of students harvesting wood and training in maintenance, safety, and forest health practices. With aerial footage, action seen from inside the cabs of mechanized equipment, and unscripted interviews, the video provides an unparalleled and honest look at an exciting industry and program.
“We realized early in our efforts to develop the program that young people today are more likely to develop an interest in a program like this by seeing it,” Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC), said. “Mechanized logging is an exciting industry that lends itself well to video and we are certain that interest in the program will be strong among potential students who view this video on social media platforms, websites, and in presentations.”
The video also highlights the history of logging in Maine, the importance of forest health and environmental stewardship to the profession, and the opportunities for advancement and good-paying careers for young men and women interested in mechanized logging.
The video was developed thanks to support from Farm Credit East. It is available on YouTube here.
The PLC is encouraging high schools, career centers, and other organizations with connections to potential students to share the video. For those needing a version suitable for projection purposes, a high-resolution version is available for viewing or download here.
The next class for the 12-week certificate program will begin in northern Maine at a date and location now being determined. Expectations for the upcoming class are high; graduates of the first class in the summer of 2017 were in such demand that all had received job offers from logging contractors even before they completed the program.
“We and the many other partners who made this program possible could not be happier with the results achieved in the first class, and we are confident that students in the second class this summer will be just as successful,” Doran said. “The demand for graduates is high, the industry is rebounding, and the future for mechanized logging operators in our state is a bright one.”
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.
While Maine’s logging industry has seen some contraction in recent years due to the loss of pulp and paper mills, 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. Many current operators are reaching retirement age and the steep costs of training new operators is driving up demand and wages.
The Mechanized Logging Operations 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.
The hands-on experience students gain operating sophisticated mechanized logging equipment for weeks in the woods is something unavailable anywhere else in Maine and neighboring states.
The first graduates of the program were recognized in September 2017 at a ceremony held in the woods south of Medway where they had spent weeks harvesting timber using sophisticated state-of-the-art machines.
The new program is working in tandem with the state’s current vocational training system and is expected to draw many of its students from within the logging industry itself as well as from Maine’s four high school vocational logging programs. For the first time, logging operators are being trained similarly to other advanced trade occupations with a high school and postsecondary approach.
Approximately 95 percent of logging in Maine now relies on mechanized equipment including feller bunchers and harvesters, delimbers, grapple skidders, and forwarders. It generally takes at least a year of training and experience before an operator becomes skilled enough to run this equipment safely and efficiently. The cost for companies to train these operators themselves is approximately $100,000 each.
It was for this reason that 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 would not have been possible without the support of Maine’s lawmakers, who made funding available for it through the ‘Put ME to Work Program’ to support creation of new job training programs at Maine’s community colleges. The program enjoyed bipartisan support, with former Maine Speaker of the House Mark W. Eves (D-North Berwick) and Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Winterport) speaking at the press conference where it was announced in late 2015.
Other important support for the program came from Acadia Insurance, Labonville Inc, Katahdin Fire Company, Eldon Pelletier, Steve Hanington, and Madden Timberlands Inc.
More information on the program is available online at http://www.nmcc.edu/industry-customized-training/mechanized-forest-operations/