SUMMIT TOWNSHIP – The Mechanized Logging Operations Program (MLOP), a training program of the Maine Community College System (MCCS) in collaboration with the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC), began its fourth class July 6 with a week of online classes and is transitioning to classes in the woods northeast of Old Town the week of July 13.
Students enrolled in the 12-week certificate program will spend 11 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 is the fourth since the program launched in 2017. Graduation for the class will be held in October.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forcing many postsecondary programs in Maine to postpone or cancel classes, MLOP will be the first program in the state to return to regular classes since schools and colleges closed this past spring.
Once classes move into the woods, MLOP instructors and students will observe proper social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols to operate safely while preserving the machine operation and harvesting experience that is key to the program’s success.
“Logging is the original social distancing profession, and with the program being primarily outdoor based with the class split into two small groups and individual students spending the majority of class time operating alone in pieces of equipment and communicating via radios, we are able to preserve the experience while maintaining safety,” Donald Burr, Coordinator of MLOP, said.
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. Despite the many recruiting, organizational and economic issues brought on by the pandemic, this summer’s class is also full.
“This program offers the most efficient and affordable pathway into an exciting and good paying career in the Maine woods available,” Dana Doran, Executive Director of the PLC, said. “The experience and education students receive in this program is unmatched, and job prospects for graduates are strong because even in the current economy mechanized logging experience is a rare skill set that is in demand.”
The Mechanized Logging Operations Program was created thanks to a partnership between the MCCS, the PLC, and industry partners.
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.
Mechanized logging operators are among the highest paid members of the logging workforce. 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 even in a down economy. Many current operators are reaching retirement age and the steep costs of training new operators is driving up demand and wages.
The program is working in tandem with the state’s current vocational training system and has drawn many of its students from within the logging industry itself as well as from Maine’s five Career and Technical High School logging programs in Dyer Brook, Farmington, Frenchville, 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.
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/Caterpillar and Nortrax Inc./John Deere. Other industry supporters include Weiler, Pro Pac, Labonville Inc., Davco, Katahdin Fire Company, Waratah, American Forest Management, Randall Madden Trucking, and Madden Timberlands, Inc.
The program has been supported since its inception by Maine Quality Centers, a MCCS program to develop and support skilled in-demand and high wage occupations in Maine.
For More Information on the program contact: Leah Buck, NMCC Assistant Dean of Continuing Education at 207-768-2768