AUGUSTA – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine and Northern Maine Community College (NMCC) applauded this week’s announcement that $1 million in dedicated federal funding has been secured to expand the Mechanized Logging Operations Program (MLOP) in 2023 and 2024 and add Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training to the program to train the next generation of timber haulers.
The funding secured on behalf of NMCC was one of Congressman Jared Golden’s Community Project Funding requests. The House passed the bill containing Golden’s request March 9. It subsequently passed the Senate with support from Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and was signed into law by President Biden on March 15.
Under guidelines issued by the Congressional Appropriations Committee, each U.S. Representative could request funding for up to 10 projects in their community for fiscal year 2022. Projects were restricted to a limited number of federal funding streams, and only state and local governments and eligible non-profit entities are permitted to receive funding.
The funding will allow the program, which currently operates one 12-week class each summer, to expand to two classes per year for the next two years.
In addition to expanding the logging operations training program, the funding will support an extra course for program graduates to attain a CDL, with a specific focus on timber hauling. This training will further prepare graduates of the mechanized logger training program with advanced skills to haul loads and move equipment in the Maine woods. This enhancement will enable employers to have multi-skilled operators who can efficiently haul timber, haul equipment and operate the equipment needed to harvest logs in today’s forest.
“This is great news for the future of Maine’s logging industry,” PLC Executive Director Dana Doran said. “The Mechanized Logging Operations Program is critical to addressing our state’s shortage of qualified logging operators in an efficient and affordable way. It has a proven track record of success, and we thank Congressman Golden and Senators Collins and King for their support of the program over the years and for securing this funding to expand and improve it.”
Recruiting is now underway for students in the 6th cohort of the program, which begins its next 12-week class June 27 in the woods northeast of Old Town.
Students enrolled in the post-secondary training program will spend three months 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 and will prepare them for in-demand careers with logging contractors throughout the state of Maine. A report released by the University of Southern Maine in 2019 documented that up to 2,000 positions in timber harvesting and trucking will be available in the next decade. MLOP is one of the primary opportunities for new job seekers to enter the industry and earn more than $47,000 annually after completing a 12-week program.
Graduation for the class will be held September 15.
The program was jointly developed by the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine and NMCC with generous support from Milton CAT/CAT Forest Products, Nortrax Inc./John Deere, and other industry partners. With a strong emphasis on safety, students gain broad knowledge 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.
Supported by the Harold Alfond Center for the Advancement of Maine’s Workforce, students pay no tuition or fees and the program provides all required personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We are grateful for Congressman Golden’s work to deliver this funding,” said Tim Crowley, president of Northern Maine Community College. “This project will allow us to continue our work with the Forest Industry in Maine to build the workforce they need for today and the future, grow the program’s footprint, and serve more Mainers looking for good-paying jobs in the woods. The partnership between NMCC and the PLC is helping Maine respond to the demands for its outstanding wood products. Congressman Golden’s support for and confidence in this partnership and our training program will have a real impact on our students.”
Anyone with an interest in the program should contact Leah Buck at Northern Maine Community College at 207-768-2768. Information may be found online at https://www.nmcc.edu/industry-customized-training/mechanized-forest-operations/
Additional information including videos on the program may be found on the PLC website at https://maineloggers.com/mechanized-logging-operations-program/
Maine’s loggers are a vital part of the state’s forest products sector, which is worth an estimated $8.1 billion annually. Logging contributed an estimated $619 million to the state economy in 2017.
Founded in 1995 with a handful of members who were concerned about the future of the industry, the PLC has grown steadily to become a statewide trade association which provides independent logging contractors and associated truckers a voice in the rapidly changing forest products industry. Board membership consists of only loggers, making it an organization that is run by loggers on behalf of loggers. PLC members are responsible for 75 percent of the timber that is harvested from Maine’s forests annually.